Out Loud About this Project (drop down and Out Loud Page)

 

Boy, I’ve struggled with how to introduce this project. On the one hand, it’s an important and potent set of stories about church, school, and family abuse, all occurring within – and to be honest, facilitated by – a church that is local to me: Christ Church of Moscow, Idaho. On the other hand, I am deeply familiar with and personally fond of this particular church community, having been part of it myself for many years; so how do I tell this kind of story about people I love and care about, without becoming the nastiest kind of accuser and attacker? 

 

Here’s how I think about it. When I left the church myself, with my own set of wounds, I became curious about the stories of others and started seeking those out. Over the course of the last five years, I have been privileged to hear story after sorrowful story that people shared with me when I asked them. 

 

There are many, many more than I’ve recorded here. These were stories of kids who were meant to thrive in the rigorous academia of Logos School but just couldn’t ever quite fit in; and, sadly, their families were so deeply committed to the glittering vision of robust Christian education, that they became blind to their own children’s needs and, essentially, sided against them and with the system. They are stories of women caught for decades in oppressive, pornographic marriages, seeking help from a pastor or pastor’s wife, and hearing what their husbands needed was more sex, better sex, a more cooperative, sexier wife. There are stories of kids being abused at the hands of siblings, fathers, Christian men at their school, and the church and family (or church and school) conspiring together to sweep it all under the rug. Stories of young men raised with such a burden of responsibility they could never hope to succeed, young women raised to submit and married early to authoritarian boys, and awakening later in life to the fact they never once understood they had a different choice. Stories of kids who moved here for college, full of hope and excitement, and got chewed up and spit out because the decks of local influence were stacked against them. Story after story after story of people who once loved this church and this town, but now they can’t even come to visit without their hearts racing and palms sweating. People who were just relieved to get away and forget and find a sense of peace somewhere else, having full-on panic attacks when they come to see their friends in little Moscow, Idaho. 

 

To be honest with you, I don’t know if this is a problem unique to this church; but I do think it is a problem unique to this type of church. When you have a system that emphasizes authority and submission, de-emphasizes personal agency and responsibility, and prioritizes the voices of those in authority, you have the kind of place where individual people can get caught in the machinery. Add to that – a place where the authority of church and school is commingled, so that your teachers are your elders, and your pastors are on the board, and it’s ripe for disaster. A system like that would have to be strenuously and humbly committed to best practices to avoid disaster. 

 

Meanwhile, I continue to struggle with myself. What should it look like to navigate this tension between local love and local anger? What do I make of the fact that I care about these people, and I enjoy and benefit from rubbing shoulders with them in this tiny town, and I am also endlessly angry on behalf of the many souls who have been hurt, pushed away, and crushed by the wheels of this system? 

 

My contributors have also agonized over whether to share these stories. What if their families get angry with them, or suffer loss of friendships or livelihood as a result of them speaking up? This is a very real possibility in a church system so intent on maintaining control of its carefully curated reputation. Contrary to some people’s opinions, it is not easy to publicly accept the role of survivor. 

 

I’ve thought of a dozen ways to present this project, but in the end, I just want to present it, without interpretation, and hope that does it justice.  I do want you to know, almost every one of these folks, after engaging their significant personal fear to share a story that could break your heart, has said some version of this: 

 

“If even one person can be helped by hearing my story, it will all be worth it.” 

 

With that hope,

 

Claire Roise

Moscow, Idaho 

December 2021