You can’t always fix people.
Those five words play through my head as I read up on stories about nightmare abusive experiences during stays at Christian half-way homes where people thought that some combination of excessive exercise, lots of Bible memorization, lots of Bible study, lots of prayer, a whole lot of cleaning, a whole lot of work, and extreme strictness combined with very harsh discipline could restore prodigal sons and daughters to be as good as new. Those five words echo in my ears as I hear accounts of nouthetic counseling where every disorder is rooted in sin and every depression the result of not nearly enough prayer. Where the Bible was the only permitted medication to resolve absolutely everything. When people kept on praying and their problems kept on persisting.
You can’t always fix people when you’re the one breaking them and blaming them.
Some people have this notion that Christian resources are just as good as secular resources. This is true. They’re just as good as secular resources at creating abusive environments and sometimes they’re even better at it. The difference is that secular places have to answer to the government to secure it’s funding. They are not allowed to keep secrets. Christian half-way homes hide behind the church. They do not answer to the state. They do not have to be inspected. They do not have to have licenses. They do not have to share their secrets. This is what allows them to get away with terrible things. Fenced in buildings, bars on windows, locked doors – that’s all that outsiders will ever know of such places.
But thankfully there are men and women, boys and girls who leave these places and they don’t remain silent. The talk about what happened to them. They talk about what they saw. They talk about what they heard. That’s how we know about the abuse and punishment that they endured year after year during the decades that such schools remained opened.
Are every single one of them a haven for abuse? Probably not. Are only a few of them centers of abuse? We don’t know. It’s not like you can walk into a Christian ministry and interview every boy and girl about what’s going on. Some places will be honest and they’ll all tell you that everything is fine. Some places tell the kids to tell strangers that everything is fine most especially when it is not or else they risk punishment. There’s no way to keep statistics so long as keeping secrets is acceptable in Christian ministries.
Look, if you’re considering sending a relative to such a place – do your homework. Don’t just read the brochure and assume that the smiling faces means that the place is as wonderful as it looks. Talk to people. Ask the people who reccomended the place to you if they recieved a lot of letters from the family members that went there. Ask them if they think the letters were censored. Ask them if they were allowed to visit. Ask people who went there what they saw, heard, and thought about what was going on around them. Don’t just assume that just because something is Christian means that it’s better than the alternative. Sometimes the alternative is far better than getting Christian help.
Just remember – you can’t always fix people. Some kids go through traumatic experiences and need real liscensed professional help them to put the pieces back together. In such cases, the most Christian thing you can do is to keep them very far away from such ‘Christian’ help. You can’t always fix people – you’re not supposed to. There are some things you can do – support people, stand by people, and encourage people. Being on their side is being there for them in a way that does them far more good than sending them away.