This month’s review is by Carol Howard Merritt, pastor, writer and RevGal extraordinaire- known to many as the speaker from the Big Event 4.0 and the author of Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation and Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation.
Disrupted by Julie Anderson Love
This is, on one level, a very extraordinary story. In Disrupted: On Fighting Death and Keeping Faith, Julie Anderson Love battles a brain tumor, something that most of us will not have to undergo, especially in the third decade of life. Love moves us with medical accuracy, spiritual awareness, and emotional depth through the painstaking decisions and healing.
On another level, however, Love’s story is an ordinary one. She is an Associate Pastor, she clashes with the Interim Senior Pastor, and he retaliates. Let me sound the spoiler alert here—if you have not read the book and want all of it to be a mystery, you can stop reading.
The heart of our discussion resides in the fact that the church fired Love while she was fighting for her life. Yes, you read that correctly. They took away her insurance and her livelihood while she had a brain tumor. When they should have been bringing her casseroles, flowers, and cards crafted by Sunday school children, they brought her a pink slip.
When Love’s pastoral counselor recounted the devastation that she had been through that year, he was pretty sure that the brain tumor was less traumatic than the church letting her go in the midst of it all. I kept turning the pages, thinking, She’s not supposed to be talking about this.
As stark and traumatic as Love’s story is, what’s even more difficult is that we hear about this stuff happening all of the time. Something similar has probably happened to many of our dear readers. When it does, we are told to be quiet, gloss over it, and move on as quickly as possible. Most of us do. Then we try to negotiate a new job, entering another church, becoming a chaplain, or dropping out of the clergy ranks altogether. Keeping quiet is usually the wisest thing to do, but does all of this playing nice help in the long run?
I don’t think so. I mean, it helps in our particular circumstance (and looking after yourself is the most important thing in these devastating situations). The opportunities for secure employment increase when we don’t make much of a fuss.
But how does it help clergywomen in general when we constantly cover up the sins of our congregations in order for us to come out less scathed?
We all know stories that make us shudder–women who have been sexually harassed, fired without cause, or paid unfairly. How can we communicate these narratives and still protect our careers? Can we find creative ways to be able to break the silence that so often enshrouds our positions?
Reading this book made me thankful that Julie Anderson Love was able to break through that code of silence under which we work. She didn’t try to make herself or her position more spiritual or perfect than she was. She told her story, with courage and honesty. She did not shy away from all of those secrets that we often have to keep. And for that, we all owe her.