I did something I never do the other day: I wrote an email to a well-known journalist whose work I follow. I’d noticed them lifting up a particular, kind of problematic group as a lauded example several times and just wanted to share my discomfort that they – a writer who I deeply respect – would be endorsing this group whose local reputation is…less than morally pristine.
I never do this, but I really appreciate this writer’s work and the third time I cringed after seeing them endorsing this group, I opened up my email and wrote a short note of appreciation and critique.
The writer replied, within hours, to say: “thank you for making me think more about this” “I believe you,” and “I trust you.” And: they CHANGED THE PART OF THEIR PIECE that I had asked about. Within twelve hours.
I was amazed that I could just…write an email to a famous writer and that they would just…respond. I was bowled over by the content of that response. And, after years of attempting to name and question problematic power dynamics in church contexts, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor that the immediate response to my inquiry was “Thank you. I believe you. I trust you. I will change this thing immediately.”
Over the years, I have raised questions about damaging power dynamics with pastors, church boards, denominational bodies, district executives, and official committees assigned to investigate ethical boundary violations. I have never – not once – received this kind of response. I have never – not once – been THANKED for being the one to point out how people were being hurt. I have never – not once – had a situation of harm addressed so swiftly; most of the time the situation is simply NOT ADDRESSED AT ALL.
I am filing this famous journalist’s response – to me, an unknown stranger showing up in their inbox – for future reference. How should we respond to someone who brings a legitimate concern that our work might be harming others? “Thank you. I believe you. I trust you. I will work to fix this, immediately.”