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The Enemy of Righteousness

They stood silently beside me, eyes wide with horror, fists clenched in fear. Beads of sweat pierced through drawn brows. An occasional strangled gasp broke through the silence as they turned to me in alarmed revulsion, condemning me for not moving to change the situation, rescue the condemned, and stop the murderous scene before them. But the older ones stood more solidly; they knew the drill, and they knew no one could stop the machinery.

They were my children.

The scene unfolding was barbaric beyond words. One of their friends was confined and fed into a wood-chipper feet first. The engine roared to life. No screams mattered now... it was over. The roaring of the Machine, the ugly noises, the bloody spray into the field beyond, the smell of death.

We turned to walk away.

I saw the whites of their eyes, the fear, the terror. There were questions, so many questions, but none that would be asked or answered. Why? Why did it happen? Who were those people that would do this? Why did we live in this place? Why did it happen to him? Will I be next? Will you do anything to stop it? Why can't we leave? Do you even care about us as a Dad? What if I make a mistake tomorrow? Will it be me then?

They live with it every day.

I had an epiphany last week during the night as I lay awake in the night hours. I began to see why my children, and the children of many ministry families, feel the way they do. They struggle with a whole set of feelings about ministry, about Christianity, about people, about openess, about community, about trust, and about fear.

Those of you who were raised as a PK (preachers kid) may well understand what I mean. People always scrutinizing every move, waiting for the slightest misstep, for an excuse to pounce on and shred you. These children feel it far more, and to a greater degree.

To most folks, being in ministry looks like one continuous vacation. There are lots of trips. There is a big bus involved, and standing on stage with hundreds or thousands of people watching. There are nice clothes and excursions to exotic locations, and experiences in prisons, cities, conferences, and concerts that look dreamy. People often ask when we return from a trip, spent, exhausted, and sometimes literally vomiting, "How was your vacation?" We hear lots of criticism for the 'fancy bus'. (usually from people who drive new Lexus and don't realize the bus is 20 years old) More trips are planned: freebies are given to the children: another recording comes out: posters are made with their pictures on them: they get to go on a cruise. To be sure, there are many things that are exciting, adventurous, and fun.

But lurking in the back of the minds of the children is the horror of THE MACHINE.

The Machine has no feelings. It has no sense of right or wrong. It chops, shreds and obliterates without recognition or remorse. It is powered by devils but requires the agreement of Christians to fully engage its horrible teeth. To put it plainly, the MACHINE is the gossipping, shredding, character pulverizing mechanism that annihilates respect, honor, character, personality, identity, courage, morality, decency, uprightness, and righteousness in general.

We have never required our children to act in a certain way because " we are in ministry ."We have gone out of our way to tell them that it would be better to make a mistake and be honest than to become "pretenders" on a grand scale. I would often tell the little dippers, " We are not trying to teach you only how to ACT. If I wanted you to learn to act, I would send you to Hollywood." We tell them their identity and calling is higher than merely an act; it is in reality and believing what Christ spoke into them before they were born. Despite it, they feel fear. They see the Machine; they watch it reach out to rake them. All of them have come to us bleeding from the scratch marks of its claws. Many are the nights they have bled and cried themselves to sleep. Sometimes, I worked with someone else until 2 AM, and they decided they didn't matter in their hearts. Many times I was simply too tired to notice.

Words were flung at them; careless remarks were made about their uselessness, poor class, lack of ability, or a mistake—angry words spoken over them about their stupid parents and their wrong ideas. Criticism burned at choices of colors or songs, being too social or not social enough, immodest, or too old-fashioned.

We tried to compensate for some of this in various ways. In some ways, this is just life... get over it. As a Dad, my mindset is so far removed from this stuff that I seldom notice the barbed remarks and hate fests that folks hurl. I weep much, far into the night, quite a lot actually, but it does not generally concern things folks have said or done to me or against me. My sensitive wife probably ends up picking up more of the pieces. But all of this is not where the actual fear lies.

As I saw last week where the fear lies, I began to understand why so many children from ministry families flip out, and are gone. They simply cannot handle the torment of the Machine. They CAN'T fail. At all. Ever. One failure will land you in THE MACHINE, shredded with your family, responsible completely for the reality that your father's entire focus and love is obliterated. It will be YOUR fault. And you will live out your years, in the realization that you are a failure and a disappointment. No mistakes. No failures. Ever. I have never tried to project a perfect front. I have never been much of a fan of pretense either; I think people are better off being real. I have walked with high-profile ministry leaders through issues they believed would destroy them and their ministry, only to find the opposite. I have wept with millionaires while they repented of things in their lives; I have caught the tears of preachers and Bishops all over while they sobbed about the wounds in their hearts.

But I have not been able to stop the Machine. And my children know it.

They know, if they make a mistake, if they fail, if they say the wrong thing if they feel something wrong within and act on it, once... into the Machine they go. And they live in fear that I would go, too.

Last week they stood beside me, in the scene at the beginning, and watched 3 of their friends shredded by the MACHINE.

They don't really know the Duggars, tho we have mutual friends. The children didn't comment much about it. But the fear showed in their eyes, and contemplating it in the night, I finally understood. The children know... it was them today, but it could be me tomorrow.

I will insert a paragraph here: I want to be clearly understood. I am not condoning the behaviour of Josh when he was 14. I think he needed help, and I think he got it. I also believe the girls needed help and got it. (I believe it, primarily because I think the parents are good, caring people... and if you don't think they got the help they needed, it is not due to evidence, but to your belief that they are bad people. Either belief system is built on preconceived notions because our evidence is not complete enough to sustain an opinion.) But the uproar from among the Christian community was inexcusable on every front. If YOU were a part of that vicious uproar... if YOU lifted up your voice in rage and judgment, if you were a part of the rush to condemn, to run THE MACHINE... can you truly say it was Christ who motivated your emotions, thoughts, and words? Or was it in fact, the devils of the Machine? Were you the engine on the chipper that shredded them? You may even be proud of it, sit back on your self-righteous laurels, and survey the bloodied fields with satisfaction. But you need to know, if you were part of the MACHINE, that it made you an enemy of righteousness, a servant of the devil, and someone of which my children live in fear. I do not share that fear.

Yet, every protective instinct in me flares up, and I get this urge to run, to flee with my children far away from the Machine, where they can live without this horrible monster around them. I walked into ministry with some concept of what it would cost me, and I was OK with that. I still am. But it honestly tears me up inside to see the children's lives ripped and shackled by this thing. I have a dream of a church where people are safe, hearts are protected, and folks minister to one another in openness and safety, and abuse has no place to hide. In that dream, folks can go off to minister and come home to someplace safe. I have a dream that my children live without fear. I will endeavor to teach my children the realities of the cross. I will try to communicate the freedom from fear available to believers by simply believing we are already dead. (dead folks don't feel chippers) I will attempt to live that out before them also, without fear. I realize we tread on the dangerous ground... so what.

This is not an attempt to get sympathy. I do not need your words of affirmation, empathy, or compassion about this, nor do I need to hear you fire up your devil-chipper to try to make me afraid. If you have been a part of devil-chippers in the past, repent. If you feel a compulsion to be a part of one now, I suggest the same- repent. There are no good reasons to make agreements with devils. Do not yield to a devil; excuse it because of your past. If you were hurt and molested in the past, my heart goes out to you... I hurt for you. I have wept with scores of folks, men and women alike, whose lives were shattered by this action. I am telling you, though, you don't have to live with that damage. Christ is REDEMPTION. He will cleanse and restore because that is Who He is.But lashing out at others is not going to set you free. Devil-chippers are not of God and do not belong to God's people. Let us not inadvertently become an enemy of all righteousness.

Wise as serpents, harmless as doves...

Stephen Stutzman

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