Every week, there seem to be new allegations of abuse in the Christian community. From Ravi Zacharias to Bill Hybels and James MacDonald—why are the powerful preying on the vulnerable? And what can we do to stop it?
In this episode of The Roys Report—Dr. Diane Langberg joins Julie to discuss her newly released book: Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church. This is a critical discussion for Christians—especially now, when we’ve discovered how rampant abuse is in the church.
In Julie’s interview, Dr. Langberg talks about the forms power takes, how it is abused, and how to respond to those abuses. She also discusses how power can be redeemed and restored to its proper God-given place in relationships and institutions.
Diane Langberg Ph.D.
Diane Langberg, Ph.D. is globally recognized for her 47 years of clinical work with trauma victims. She has trained caregivers and church leaders on six continents on how to recognize and respond to trauma and the abuse of power in a healing way. Her most recent book is Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church (Brazos).
JULIE ROYS, DR. DIANE LANGBERG
JULIE ROYS 00:04
Every week there seem to be new allegations of abuse in the Christian community, from Ravi Zacharias to Chris Rice to Bill Hybels and James McDonald. Why are the powerful preying on the vulnerable? And what can we do to stop it? Welcome to the Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And joining me today is Dr. Diane Langberg – someone is no stranger to many of you. Dr. Langberg has been a guest on this podcast before, and as a leading psychologist and expert on abuse, her insights are profound. Well, Dr. Langberg has just released a new book, Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse In The Church. And this is a must read for Christians if we want to stop abuse in the church. It’s critical that we understand the forms that power takes, how it is abused, and how to respond to abuses of power. So I’m very much looking forward to exploring this extremely important and relevant topic with Dr. Langberg today. But before I do, I’d like to thank the sponsors of the Reuters report, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson University is a top ranked Christian university, providing a caring community and excellent college experience. Judson has resumed in-person classes for traditional, transfer, and adult students. And you can choose from more than 60 majors and learn in a Christian community known for its spiritual values, leadership opportunities, and strong financial aid. Judson is located on a beautiful 90 acre campus just 36 miles northwest of Chicago. Judson University is shaping lives that shape the world. For more information, just go to Judsonu.edu/visit. Also, if you’re in the market for a car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there, Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of character, and I’m proud to partner with them for this podcast. To check them out, just go to Buyacar123.com. Well again. joining me today is Dr. Diane Langberg, an internationally recognized psychologist and counselor with 47 years of experience. She’s also the co-founder of the Global Trauma Recovery Institute at Mission Seminary in Philadelphia. And she sits on the board of Grace, an organization committed to empowering Christian communities to recognize, prevent, and respond to abuse. So Dr. Langberg, welcome. And thanks so much for joining me again.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 02:44
You’re welcome, Julie. It’s a privilege to be here.
JULIE ROYS 02:46
Well, Diane, so excited to have you on the program. And before we get started, I just want to mention, too, that your book, Redeeming Power, is our premium this month for our giving partners. So anyone who becomes a monthly donor, giving $25 a month or more, will get this book. To do that just go to Julieroys.com/donate. Well, Dr. Langberg, I so appreciate your book, Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse In The Church. This is such a timely book, and a relevant book with all the abuse going on in the church today and just a grievous thing that power is so misused. And I think because of that, we often think of power as something that might be inherently bad, but you talk about it as something that’s inherently good. In fact, you write that it derives from Christ. Would you explain that?
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 03:42
Well, the power that humans have, I think is first of all part of the image of God that we bear. We bear the image of the God of all power. And in that image giving, he gave us power, he gave us choice. He said to Adam and Eve, “I want you to go out and rule and subdue my world”. Not each other, but his world. So that it flourishes and is blessed. So we were created to have power, but it was of course to be used in service of God, and honoring him. And then Jesus, when he was leaving the earth, he said to his disciples, all power, not some, all power is given to me, in heaven and on earth. And so that means that the power that we have, is not actually ours. It’s a piece of his that He has given to us. And he’s given it to us to use in a way that looks like him, that honors him, and that blesses his world.
JULIE ROYS 04:48
And that’s such a beautiful picture and image and yet so often, that’s not what we see. We don’t see power used to bless others. We see power frequently used to exploit and abuse the vulnerable.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 05:01
JULIE ROYS 05:01
Why is that that this tool that God’s given us is so often perverted?
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 05:06
Well, partly because humans pervert everything that’s good about God. Equal opportunity perverters is what we are.
JULIE ROYS 05:16
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 05:17
I mean, you know, since the fall, that’s what we do. We were to reflect his image and everything that we were and did, that is no longer the case. And so now, rather than using our power to honor him and to look like him, we use our power to take care of ourselves. So that can be as basic as a two or three year old taking a wooden block and hitting another two or three year old on the head, because they want what they have. You know, all the way through to heads of nations, like Adolf Hitler, or somebody like that. And in between more ordinary people, institutions and churches and things like that use the power that has been God given to feed themselves, rather than to bless.
JULIE ROYS 06:03
And so often, we see shepherds who are supposed to feed the sheep, actually preying on the sheep – actually feeding on the sheep. And it’s just, it’s so grievous. You talk about, too, the role of deception, about people, how we distort everything, and you know, you think back to the fall, that all began with a deception, right? If you eat this, you know, you will be wise, you will be like God and Eve was deceived. And then Adam. But with using our power and using it in perverted ways, deception is at the root. And I thought that was, that was really interesting. Can you explain how deception works with power and you know, exploitation?
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 06:47
it’s deception in two ways. It’s first deception of the self. You have to find ways to talk to yourself about how it’s okay to use power in a way that’s actually harmful. And then deception of others, so that you can get away with what you’re doing. Or call it good, which is often you know, what happens. Again, you just think back in more concrete ways, or with a child, let’s say a boy who’s being bullied throughout school. So people are abusing power in the way that they treat him. And perhaps at some point, he says, “I’m never gonna let anybody do this to me again. I will be in charge no matter what happens, because I will be safe from this.” And so he has set himself unknowingly on a trajectory of abusing power himself. And it’s because when he was vulnerable, others abused power. And you know, that bears out in statistics and things. So if you look at the statistics for homes, where there’s been domestic violence, the percentage of the next generation having domestic violence, whether it’s somebody marrying a violent person, or somebody being a violent person, the percentages are quite high. And so when power has been abused in our lives, we want to protect ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with that. But we often do that in ways that are also abusive. And we tell ourselves, it’s a good thing. I need to do this, because bullying is bad, and it hurts me, and I’m not going to let that happen anymore. And so I can knock all your teeth out if I have to, in order to protect me. And I can say it was a good thing to do, because what you’re doing is bad.
JULIE ROYS 08:21
And abuse is something that, as a church we know is bad, we know is evil. And yet we see it coming into the church. And I think part of that you put your finger on in this book, when you say that deception, that it often becomes systemic. How can deception become systemic? And how does that work, particularly in, say, a church or a Christian institution?
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 08:45
We are God’s people. This work that we are doing is God’s work. We must protect God’s work at all costs. Your story of abuse by the person in charge of this work is going to destroy God’s work. So you are now an enemy of God. And so we have to deal with you so we can protect God’s work.
JULIE ROYS 09:05
And we hear that so often. So so often. And if you’re going to blow the whistle on that, I know this isn’t original to me, but in these dysfunctional systems, there is no problem. But if you speak up about a problem, you become the problem.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 09:20
Yes, you are the problem. And you have to be dealt with.
JULIE ROYS 09:24
Yeah. It’s been interesting for me reading your book in conjunction with Scott McKnight and Laura Barringer’s book called A Church called Tov. And Tov is the word for good.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 09:34
It’s in my pile. My book pile.
JULIE ROYS 09:37
You’re gonna love it, you’re gonna love it. And it dovetails so perfectly with your book, because it talks about, you know, a good culture, creating a good culture and churches that resist abuse, promote healing. And they talk about how every church has a culture. But we often don’t think about that. We’re formed by this culture, right? Yet it’s often invisible to us, because we just live in it, we swim in it. You write about culture too, about how it can seduce us to behave in ways that can break the heart of God. Obviously, if the culture is bad. Would you talk about how that happens? How we, you know, are influenced by these cultures that are often toxic that we don’t even realize, and then we end up doing things that we shouldn’t be doing?
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 10:24
Part of it is just the general idea, I think, that culture is sort of like the air we breathe. We don’t even really see or assess our own culture. We do that within our nuclear families, we do that in our neighborhoods or part of the nation, we do that nationally, we do it all kinds of ways. And so that’s just the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way that it is. I’m a military kid. So you know, we moved a lot. Though I was in the military culture, I was put in new cultures over and over again. And so it gave me eyes to see some things that I probably would have missed if I lived in the same house in the same place my entire growing up. So I think part of it is that we don’t purposefully evaluate. There’s an old story about a woman who’s cooking a roast, and every time she cooks it, she cuts off a piece of it. Her husband said, Why’d you do that? She said, I don’t know. I do it because my mother did it. So she calls her mother. And she says to her mother, why do you always cut off a piece of the roast? She says, because my pot was too small. That’s the culture.
JULIE ROYS 11:24
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 11:25
So it goes down to the next generation. It’s what you do, but nobody knows why. And if you go back to the reason why, it’s perfectly ridiculous for you to do it. But then if you look at Christian institutions, denominations, whatever, and go back not very far, those institutions have used God’s word to protect their culture, which was a culture that had slaves. And, you know, doing some reading about that, and things like that, I think is very eye opening. Because most of us don’t know those things. And we don’t realize the church has done those things. Nor do we think about how we might still be doing it in other ways. So you know, God’s word has been used in cultures to support slavery, to support domestic violence, and just support the cover up of rape and sexual abuse.
JULIE ROYS 12:13
One of the churches that, obviously, I have spent a lot of time investigating over the past couple of years, has been Harvest Bible Chapel. And it’s interesting as we’re talking about this, one of the things I noticed about James McDonald, when I used to hear him on the radio, when I worked for Moody Radio, is that he mocked people. And this is before I knew anything about what was going on – the corruption and bullying and everything within Harvest Bible Chapel. But I just remember being turned off to that. I’m like, he often would talk about some sort of person who held a belief that he thought was wrong. And then he’d sort of pretend to be that person in a mocking voice or a derisive voice. And I just thought, that’s just not how Christians should behave. I just didn’t like it. And interestingly, now that I’ve reported on Harvest, people have told me Yeah, James McDonald used to say sarcasm was his love language. And sarcasm was just rampant in the church. And that’s just how they treated people. And, and just recently, you know, he’s been doing some preaching, and somebody sent me a clip of that. And within a sermon, how he mocks people, I forget how many times. It was literally dozens in one sermon. But I thought, my goodness, when that’s upfront, and then what is being portrayed to the people. And this is a culture where we say sarcasm is a love language. All of a sudden, this becomes natural. And we become, you know, almost immune to it. And I’m just thinking people listening right now, how can we evaluate the culture of our church and say, is this biblical? And how can we start opening our eyes to things that maybe we’ve been completely blind to?
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 13:52
Well, part of that is that we, as God’s people, have to really not only know his written word well, but his Word made flesh. I mean, our Lord was never sarcastic. And he dealt with vicious enemies. He always spoke in a way that was founded in love, even when he was cracking whips and turning over tables. Because at bottom, what that was, was an invitation into the light because he loved them. So a leader like that, or people who surround a leader like that, well, that’s just his way. That’s just what he does. You know, you need to get used to it.
JULIE ROYS 14:21
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 14:22
It’s utterly ungodly. It’s something our Lord never did, and never sanctions. And we are tolerating that poison, and that poisons seeps into the culture and seeps into individual lives. And I can pretty much bet you that there are people living in homes under those kinds of words, in the pulpit, who use those kind of words at home with wives and children and whatever, or husbands and children because it’s been sanctioned. It’s just a way. And so then you now are taking utter ungodliness, excusing it, saying it’s okay, and reproducing it in other people who then reproduce it in other generations.
JULIE ROYS 15:01
Just such a vicious cycle. You know, one of the stories I’ve reported on the past month concerns Ravi Zacharias, this champion apologist that Christians have revered for decades. And yet now we’re hearing what appears to be a preponderance of evidence that this man was a serial sexual predator. But I know for a lot of Christians, they just can’t accept it. I mean, it’s just this cognitive dissonance because there’s this man of such knowledge and intellect who so winsomely argued for the truth, and to believe that this man could actually be a wolf in sheep’s clothing is just really, really, really hard. But you write, and I thought this was really interesting, that we inherently tend to trust people like Ravi. Why is it that someone that, again, is this person of knowledge and intellect, we just inherently think that person is someone we can trust?
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 15:59
I think at bottom, it’s because we have elevated gifting over character. We assume that gifts, verbal ability, whatever intellectual ability, and all those kinds of things, particularly when those abilities are used to do things that are scriptural or sound like scripture, or whatever, or say they’re for the church, all of those things, we trust, that character is good, because gifting is good. And it’s a complete lie. I mean, you just go back to the basic Galatians thing about the Fruit of the Spirit, There is not one gift listed in that. So you can be brilliant, and verbal, and theologically astute, and all kinds of things. There’s been people like that down through the centuries, and look nothing like Jesus Christ. In some way, that is in terms of what you’re talking before, in terms of ungodliness with sarcasm, and things like that treating people in the image of God like that? Or whether it’s sexual stuff that’s been hidden for years, or whether it’s stealing money for years from a Christian institution, there’s a million ways you can do it. But the bottom line is, you have a very gifted person using those gifts to speak things that sound like God, whose character looks nothing like Christ when it’s exposed.
JULIE ROYS 17:16
And so often, when we have abuse, it’s not just from a person of intellect and knowledge. It’s from a man, of intellect and knowledge. And that man is often, in some cases, preying on his entire church. But often very specifically, preying on women. And I don’t mean to open a can of worms, but I guess I’m going to.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 17:38
You just did.
JULIE ROYS 17:39
Yes, I did. But many have asked, you know, how different Christian understandings of the role of men and women have perhaps contributed to abuse? What’s your view on that?
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 17:52
Well, having opened a can of worms, I’ll stick my neck out and say, Yes, I think that’s true. Because what we have set up in the Christian world, and again, you go back to Genesis, Adam and Eve, go the two of you and rule and subdue my Earth, then there’s the fall, and God says, This man’s gonna rule over you. Well, that’s part of the fall, it wasn’t God’s original command.
JULIE ROYS 18:13
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 18:14
And we have made that a good thing. And so we seem to have done this dichotomy thing, where men are supposed to be very strong and have the authority and the wisdom and the final say, and all those kinds of things, and women are supposed to be supportive, and kind and everything else. The fact of the matter is, we’re all supposed to be both. If I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, I need to be wise, and I need to exercise authority, according to him that looks like him. And I need to have strength. It doesn’t matter what my gender is. But if I’m a follower of him, I need humility and gentleness, and I need to know how to support and care for and I also need to know how to follow. We’ve messed all that up. Along with a few other things.
JULIE ROYS 18:57
It’s interesting to me, though, when when we talk about this, we often associate what is ,you know, say complementarian theology. Which is, you know, that there are traditional, there are distinct roles for men and women. When we associate that often with being an oppressive and domineering and, you know, sometimes abusive, that it can create that kind of culture in the church. And then we assume that egalitarian, where there’s not necessarily distinct roles for men and women, they might maybe believe to be interchangeable. That that would be a more welcoming environment. And yet, what we found is that there’s abuse in both, say, in an egalitarian, like Bill Hybels had at Willow Creek, and the complementarian churches, you know, and speak of Paige Patterson, who at the Southern Baptist Convention was very misogynistic. I would say. But it’s interesting to me to note that it can be in both. I’ve said sometimes it complementarianism and egalitarianism are just two sides of the same misogynistic coin. Misogyny is an issue in the church. And I think and you even bring up this whole, and I won’t get completely into this, but I will touch on it, this whole eternal subordination of the Son, and looking at the fact that marriage is supposed to be a Trinitarian symbol, you know, of two becoming one flesh, and that’s supposed to speak of, you know, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit and how they relate. It is interesting to me that we would actually I mean, this is just perverse to me, that we would look at the Trinity and make it all about hierarchy. When I look at the Trinity, are there different rolesin the Trinity? Yes. Does the Son submit to the Father? Yes. Does the Holy Spirit glorify the Son and the Father? Yes. What you see is this mutuality and love. That’s what I see, when I look at the Trinity.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 20:48
Yes, yes, it is the unity. There’s a chapter on gender, as you know, in the book, and part of what I talk about is the fact that we have created these two labels that are very divisive in the Christian world. And if you’re on the other side, you’re wrong and I’m not. We’ve taken two words and created them, dividing the church, telling everybody who they should be as if we have the wisdom to do that. And these words are nowhere in the Scripture.
JULIE ROYS 21:16
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 21:16
It doesn’t talk like that. It says, There’s neither male nor female, all are one in Christ Jesus.
JULIE ROYS 21:20
Although, I would say, there are distinctions of male and female.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 21:24
Of course there are. But the point is that in terms of dignity, and worth, and status, and strength, and all of those things, we’re all called to be Christ-like.
JULIE ROYS 21:35
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 21:36
And it’s not like there’s parts of who Christ is that I’m not supposed to be because I’m female.
JULIE ROYS 21:41
It’s exactly and we all have access, equal access to the Father through the Son.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 21:46
Absolutely. That’s the only way.
JULIE ROYS 21:48
Yeah, amen. Well, you write that there are two words that should never go together – spiritual and abuse. And yet, spiritual abuse is a thing. I have become so acutely aware of that in the past few years. And spiritual abuse is absolutely rampant in our churches. How is it that our churches, the very places that are supposed to be the haven for the vulnerable, and we know that our Father’s heart is inclined to the vulnerable, right? I mean, you just, you cannot read scripture and not see that his heart breaks for the vulnerable, and for those who are oppressed by the powerful, so how has it happened, that our churches have become places where there is abuse, and when and where scripture is used as a tool of abuse?
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 22:41
Well, I would first say that any form of abuse, in any setting, whether it’s verbal, or emotional, or financial, or physical, or whatever, also brings spiritual abuse. You can’t sexually abuse a child or rape another person or batter them or anything else, and not damage their self. This is not possible. So all of those things include spiritual abuse, and and part of what you know I have seen for decades, is how it makes understanding God the Father, and his love for his children close to impossible. It’s just diabolical. So then you put put it in a an institution that calls itself by God’s name, that does not acknowledge that that impact of any kind of abuse, whether it occurred in the church or institution or not, number one, to when it is exposed, it is denied or hidden. And it is often covered up with the use of spiritual language. Again, you know, we’re hearing God’s name, we’re gonna ruin God’s name in this community that we’re trying to reach. Do you want these people to go to hell? Because you did this? Because you’re talking about this? You don’t want that. And that’s, that’s horrible spiritual abuse. It’s using our God and His words in a way that protects evil and darkness and sin.
JULIE ROYS 24:03
You also talk about how in the church we’ve been seduced by power. Would you explain that?
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 24:09
Well, we were seduced in Eden. And again, we were seduced in Eden, we were given choice by God. That’s part of what it means to have power. He gave it to us. He wants us to love him by choice. Okay. So we use that power and we’re seduced by it in another form, to deceive ourselves that, in reaching for that power, we were actually pleasing God. So the whole deception thing is always part of the equation. And so we are lured into having power partly, I think, because we were made to have power. Again, back to your beginning question. It’s not like power is all bad. It’s not! It’s good! And you you look at power seen and kindness you look at power seen in, in gentleness, you look at power seen in the cross, which looks nothing like the way we think power ought to look, but nonetheless, it’s the greatest power that ever was, or is. So I think part of the seduction is because we’re meant to have it. But part of that seduction, of course, is the deception that you will have it and that’s a good thing, and God wants you to have it. And you’ll be more like Him when you have it this way. And so then we just say unwisely is barely to cover it. But we unwisely choose power cloaked in God language that looks nothing like Him. It’s very easy to happen.
JULIE ROYS 25:31
And to use it to serve ourselves instead of to bless others, which was the original purpose for it.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 25:36
JULIE ROYS 25:37
You know, speaking of power, one of the things that just really struck me from your book is talking about how we all have power. Because I think some of us feel like we have no power. We feel very powerless, especially compared to, you know, huge institutions, or very powerful people and celebrities, or pastors in our church, which often, you know, even in a small church can feel almost godlike in their power and their control, you know, over people. Especially if they’re not using it appropriately. But you, you mentioned it here, it cracks me up, because we have a grandchild who is not quite yet a year, year old. And we went over to their house last weekend and spent some time with my son and his wife. And you mentioned how an infant who can’t even speak, can’t do anything hardly for him or herself, has incredible power.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 26:35
JULIE ROYS 26:36
Because in the middle of the night, that infant can cry, and rouse two human beings to come running to him or her and wait on their every need, right? I mean, so even an infant has power. Can you talk to us a little bit about, you know, the different forms of power, that maybe we’re oblivious to?
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 26:57
Well, verbal power is certainly one of them. And the parent has tremendous, the parent names the world for the child. Lots of times the world gets misnamed, or, you know, whatever. So, and then obviously, leaders have verbal power. You know, pastors have it. Professors have it. Hitler had it. There is emotional power, where people know how to speak in a way that touches emotions, that draws people in, that gets them to move toward or do things that they otherwise would not. There’s the power of knowledge. I mean, you know, if I needed somebody to explain this virus to me, you know, I would go to somebody who knows the science of it. They have knowledge that I don’t have. So knowledge and intellect, which, again, parents, teachers, professors, pastors, you know, they’ve studied, they know, things. I know things my clients don’t know. I can name things for that my verbal power. And I have knowledge and can say, Well, this is trauma, this is what it does. And they they had no idea. There’s power position, in a, you have a lump on your back and you go to the physician, you’re hoping he has power of knowledge. But his position is, he’s the one with power in the room, he can name the lump on your back is nothing, or he can name it as cancer. You know, there’s all kinds of things that he can do from that position. Position of teaching a class, the position of preaching, all of those things are powerful positions. And then of course, you have people literally with with the power position, you know, a guard in a prison. You know, that’s the position of power that can be used or misused toward others. There’s economic power, there’s physical power. Which is what we usually think of when we think of power. And it’s only one of the kinds, you know, but if you weigh 240 pounds, and I’m five feet tall, and weigh 92 pounds, you have the power. You know, you can pick me up, twirl me around, do whatever you want, I can’t stop you. And then of course, there’s power from a spiritual perspective that people can have. I’m probably forgetting some. But the fact is, there are many, many kinds. The other thing I talk about, which I think is extremely important for people to know, is that there is power in the withholding of power. And that can be good or bad, just like all the other kinds. So one of the things that strikes me, you know, you talk about the church and the wolves and the sheep and they eat, you know, they’re feeding off the sheep and all tha. Do you go to Ezekiel 34, where God’s talking to the shepherds who are basically destroying, their feeding off of the sheep. But in that chapter, he says this, you didn’t strengthen the sick, you didn’t heal the diseased, you didn’t bind up the broken. and you didn’t bring back to scattered, You used your power to fail them; to withdraw from them; to not actively take care of them. And so withholding power can be tremendously powerful. If you saw a blind person ready to walk across the railroad track and or a blind the deaf person and their train was coming. If you did nothing, your withholding of power could end their life. And so that’s important for the church to understand because when something about abuse is brought up, and the church collectively withholds its power, requiring truth, requiring it being investigated, whatever they need to do. But the point is, that absence of power is very powerful, and can do terrible destruction.
JULIE ROYS 30:19
Yeah, boy, that withholding of power. I mean, obviously, we’re talking about an abuse context. I’ve noticed that churches, and I don’t know if this is a one-to-one correlation, it probably isn’t. I’m sure there’s there’s examples where it doesn’t hold true, but, but the churches where there have been abused, a lot of these mega churches, look at their missions budget. So often it’s paltry, because they were spending on themselves, on building that kingdom. And I think often that can be an indicator when you speak of withholding power. I mean, here, they had this power to bless, and to, you know, to bring so much relief around the world, and they were spending it on building their platforms. And I think that’s very, very telling. And when you speak of power, too, one thing I want to speak to is the power of the victim. Because I think the victim feels so powerless, and especially when, and I think verbal, because I that’s my currency, right? I can write it, or I can speak it. That’s my currency that I’ve used the power God’s given me to expose evil, and to confront it and to, to bring some sort of reform in the church. I will never forget this one situation was actually when I was first blowing the whistle on stuff at Moody Bible Institute. And I remember this professor coming to me and saying, “Julie, please speak for us, because we feel like we have no voice”. And I remember the time thinking, Okay, yeah, God has uniquely positioned me where I, I know how to report this, and I have a platform for reporting it. So yes, that’s true. And at the same time, it’s occurred to me later, that the 30 to 40 professors who I know, had written letters complaining about the very, you know, top down, authoritarian kind of administration that was there at the time management. If they had simply banded together the 30 to 40 of them, and not been afraid of the consequences to themselves and had banded together, all 30 to 40 of them and spoken publicly about what was going on, I wouldn’t have had to do anything.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 32:25
JULIE ROYS 32:26
And so yet so often what I see, and this is what I’ve noticed, is there being a crisis of courage in the church, and people not using their power, their voice. And it’s sad. I’ll say, on one hand, I can understand it, because sometimes people have spoken and they’ve been absolutely crushed.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 32:43
JULIE ROYS 32:44
And yet at the same time, we are seeing now with the METOO movement, we are seeing now with all I mean, I couldn’t believe when Christianity Today actually did an investigative piece on Ravi Zacharias. I don’t think five years ago that ever would have happened. But now things are changing. And I feel like the Christian media is starting to speak. But I think victims are starting to speak. And using the power that they have. I mean, do we need to recover some of the power that we have as lay people, as victims, as allies to victims in the church?
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 33:20
Absolutely. I mean, first of all, having a voice is part of the image of God just like powers. That God speaks, he is the word, and we are in his image. And so what we do with our voices, whether we lie or twist things, or deceive, or whether we use our voices for truth, and with humility, and out of love, matters tremendously. And I think, in many ways, the church, and it’s certainly not here just in this country, and it’s certainly not just in this century, or anything like that, but that the church has become an institution rather than a body. And it’s a system that we protect, and we equate it with the body, but it’s not. And so when things happen, like you’re describing with Moody, or whatever part of what that does, is to protect the institution, I choose to do X, Y, and Z. But the body that doesn’t follow its head is a sick body. And he always called things by their right name. He always brought the light to the situation. He turned on the light and the rats ran. He did it out of love, but he always did it. And we end up having bought the idea that this place, or this organization, or this denomination, or this school or whatever, is God’s body. It’s not! It isn’t going to be his institutions in heaven. You know, so we protect our place in an institution rather than follow our head. And I think a lot of people don’t speak up in those situations, because they really don’t understand the power that they have, because nobody’s ever taught them. And I think also now victims are speaking up, which I’m extremely grateful fo. It’s highly risky for them. And the courage it takes is pretty much immeasurable as far as I’m concerned. But they also, in terms of some of them, have each other now.
JULIE ROYS 35:16
There’s a big community,
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 35:17
You know, if you if you were being abused in a little tiny church in Iowa, and then somebody else is being abused over in London or something like, they had no way to contact each other. There was no other. So there are ways now that has helped strengthen their voice, which I’m exceedingly grateful for, because it’s silence has changed the music. They’re meant to sing. And they’re meant to sing the truth.
JULIE ROYS 35:38
Well, and it’s true with the internet, I think it has empowered victims. They have a voice they didn’t before. They have a way of connecting that they didn’t before. And I know for me, I’ve been amazed at these abuse survivor communities and how the the level of support and camaraderie is really amazing. And I know I’ve appreciated that so much. And so I guess we are talking about the solution here and some of the ways to fight it. But you specifically talk about an antidote to abuse and exploitation in the church. What what is the antidote?
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 36:14
Well, ultimately, the antidote is a person. I mean, his character, his love, his humility, those are the antidotes. Those are the ways we’ve lost our way. We aren’t walking in humility, we aren’t loving, we aren’t doing those, we’re not speaking truth, which is the proper authority to have, you know. That authority is twisted up when it’s just ‘do this, do that, whatever’. Authority is about truth that’s delivered with humility, and based in love. And can it be surgical and hurt like crazy? Absolutely! But it still has those qualities. But ultimately, you see, the antidote is not how to do it. Even though there are ways . The antidote is Jesus Christ. He is our head. And he has called us. He was the word made flesh. You want to know what God looks like? You walk around with that, man. That’s who we’re supposed to be. We’re supposed to be the Word made flesh, both individually, and collectively. That’s the only antidote I know, to this mess. And again, this mess has been going on for centuries. I mean, it’s not like, you know, the huge churches in Europe and all that kind of stuff, haven’t had hideous abuse histories. You know, we are not special here in the US in terms of doing damage. But it’s him. It’s not my denomination. It’s not my institution. It’s not my gifting. It’s my likeness to him.
JULIE ROYS 37:28
And he empowers us.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 37:30
JULIE ROYS 37:31
Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. I mean, we have the Holy Spirit post Pentecost. We have the Holy Spirit. And I think so often we forget.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 37:40
JULIE ROYS 37:41
I say this a lot. But I mean, I believe it is the core of my being that I’ve, if we are fighting on the side of truth, God is truth. And He fights for us. And He empowers us.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 37:51
He doesn’t just speak truth. He is truth.
JULIE ROYS 37:54
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 37:54
Same thing with love. He doesn’t just talk about love. He is love.
JULIE ROYS 38:01
Recently, the tragic story that came out about Chris Rice, who’s a singer-songwriter. I love some of his songs, like, Deep Enough To Dream is one of my favorite songs, because I love having songs. And I love to keep my focus on heaven. Because sometimes what’s happening on earth is something I don’t want to contemplate. I really would rather put my focus on on heaven. And yeah, I was just really just so sad to see these allegations come out that or an allegation that he had sexually abused someone in a youth ministry at a church. But as grieved as I was by that, I was also unbelievably heartened by the way that the church handled it. Immediately reported it to police, or informed police. I guess the alleged victim is an adult. So it’s up to that person, whether he wants to press charges or not. But then the elders met right away. And they hired GRACE, which is the organization you’re on the board of, and one of a very, very small group that I would trust to do an independent investigation to find out the truth of a situation like this. But then he made a statement. And one of the things I loved about the public statement that this church made, what’s actually the pastor made it, you know, he was speaking for the church. But he said that this allegation is credible because of the the character of the person that brought it forward, and there was corroborating evidence. And so you see a victim affirmed and believed publicly. And then this almost brought tears to my eyes. He he writes to potential survivors of abuse because often we know, if there’s one abuse, there’s usually many more. You have a lot of silenced victims. And we don’t know in this case, if that’s true. Again, these are allegations that have not been proven or you know shown to be true or false yet. But he writes, the pastor writes, ‘my deepest apology is reserved for you again, the potential survivors of abuse, I have wept at the thought of a high school student being exposed to this alleged abuse because of their involvement at the church I love and pastor, I am so sorry. I want you to know that all of this transparency, urgency and energy is for you. And I pray that it will bring some measure of healing to your story. We also understand that this process might be painful for survivors of sexual abuse unrelated to these allegations. So I want to say to any and all victims of any and all sexual abuse, we grieve with you, and pray that you will not hold the sins of those who claim to follow Jesus Christ against Jesus.’
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 40:53
That makes me weep.
JULIE ROYS 40:56
I think it may I know it made a lot of people weep, because I saw it on social media people saying that.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 41:02
Well, the gift of that to the victims of any kind of abuse anywhere is immeasurable. Because probably 90 plus percent of them have never heard a Christian leader speak like that. So which is that alone is a terrible thing. And I would also say, which it sounds like they understand this as a church, but probably need to be reminded of it as they go through this, that they are they are suffering.
JULIE ROYS 41:27
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 41:28
I mean, they already have an investigation for something else.
JULIE ROYS 41:31
That’s true. This is the second one and maybe why they’re so educated.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 41:35
Yes, I’m sure that’s true. However, they probably didn’t think when they did that they want to do it again. And so that’s got to be a punch in the gut, and full of grief and suffering for them as a church. They did not choose to take care of themselves. In the midst of that.
JULIE ROYS 41:53
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 41:54
They chose to pursue the truth in proper ways. And they chose to care for the least of these, whether they are victims in that church, or anyplace else ever. And I would hope that they would have glimmers of the fact, as a church, that they are leading the way for the rest of us. And that is the path of our Lord, You see, because He is the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we’re to follow him and that is not a road we want to walk on – thank you very much. This church is walking that road. They’re following Him. But they’re also calling the rest of us to follow them as they follow Him.
JULIE ROYS 42:33
Yeah. And something I remember you saying in a previous podcast, was that we need to change our vision of what a pastor is. Instead of this charismatic leader that, you know, draws us into, you know, his vision of the future, which is so much of what it is today. But biblically, a pastor is someone who sacrifices himself for his sheep. And like you said, in this situation, this pastor isn’t thinking about protecting himself or protecting his church. He’s sacrificing for the sake of his sheep and even issued an apology to the larger community saying, you expect churches to be safe places. We’re so sorry we failed you.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 43:16
JULIE ROYS 43:17
Yeah. And we’re going to do everything we can.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 43:19
JULIE ROYS 43:20
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 43:22
We do follow the good and great shepherd. But that path goes to a cross.
JULIE ROYS 43:26
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 43:27
Not financial success. Not fame.
JULIE ROYS 43:30
Well, last question for you. And I thank you for giving us as much time as you have. But obviously, you stayed in the church, despite its many failings. Why is it that you still believe in the church, despite everything that you’ve seen? And what advice do you have for hurting victims today, who are probably thinking, I don’t know, if I want to give the church a second shot?
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 43:55
I would first say to the victims that, I get that. And I would never push a victim to be involved in a church. Particularly one who’s been a victim of something like clergy sexual abuse, or whatever. Because, first of all, I want them to really be strong and understanding that that has nothing to do with who God is. And that you don’t have to show up in a building for Him to be pleased. You know, He loves you. And He’s not like whoever they were, or he or she was or whatever. So I’m very, very careful with that. But I love the church, Julie. Not the institution. The body of Christ. And I’ve spent almost 50 years serving the body of Christ. I mean, I’ve not only worked with victims of all kinds of horrific things, including around-the world genocide, and all kinds of things. But I’ve also worked with pastors for years. And some of them are broken and some of them are just very fine and struggling because it’s a very hard place to be. Particularly if you want to do it loving Christ and the system wants you to be a success. That’s a lonely road.
JULIE ROYS 44:56
I can imagine.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 44:57
Very lonely road. It’s the body of my Lord that I love. And parts of it show up in buildings sometimes. You know? And being with those who know Him and love Him in the true sense and want to be like Him and worship Him. That’s why I go. Has the church broken my heart? I don’t have words for that. I don’t have any words. Have they raised anger in me? Yes. I have not yet turned over tables and cracked whips. I do it verbally. So do I have anger? Yes. Do I sometimes. You know, I remember years ago when I was early on in my work with sexual abuse and realizing the fact that it was in the family of God, not just in nuclear families, standing near the front of a church singing a hymn and all of a sudden, not being able to sing anymore realizing, you know, if anybody in this congregation had any idea what was in my head, they would say unclean and want me to leave.
JULIE ROYS 45:53
I think we’ve all had those thoughts.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 45:57
So I’m not a victim. You know, I’m not I’m not a victim of abuse. But I do understand that isolation of I’m sitting here worshiping with people who probably mostly have no clue. Now, I happen to have people in churches and things like that, that I know and love. And they do have a clue because it’s different than it was 40 years ago. But it’s Him that I love, and He loves His body.
JULIE ROYS 46:19
And I will say, I have seen some of the ugliest things that I’ve witnessed in the church. But I tell you, when the church is filled with the Holy Spirit and the love of God, it is the most beautiful thing we have on this planet.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 46:34
Yes, it’s the closest we see of Him.
JULIE ROYS 46:36
It’s a taste of heaven.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 46:37
JULIE ROYS 46:38
And when you get a taste of that, it ruins you for everything else. And so I’m with you, and popey so passionately in the church. And I’m so grateful. So, so grateful for your work to help the church do a better job. So, Dr. Langford, thank you, thank you for taking this time. And thank you for the work you put into this, this new book, which by the way, Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse In the Church, that is going to be a book that we’ll be offering the entire month of November for anybody who gives a regular gift of $25 or more to this ministry. We want to get this book in as many hands as we possibly can. But thank you for writing it. And thank you for your work on the behalf of victims. It is God’s work on Earth. So thank you.
DR. DIANE LANGBERG 47:24
You’re welcome. Thank you for the opportunity to talk.
JULIE ROYS 47:29
Well, and thanks so much for listening to the Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’d like to find me online, just go to JulieRoys.com. Also, make sure you subscribe to the Roys report on Apple podcasts or Google podcasts. That way, you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then, if you could, just share the podcast on social media just to get the word out about this content. And great programs like Dr. Langberg’s today. Again, thanks for joining me. Hope you have a great day and God bless.