Jul
06

Church Lies and Religious Abuse

By

spiritual abuse, church abuse,
Layers of Lies on Something Beautiful

I received this letter from one of our readers in response to Carla’s amazing post “Groomed to Doubt through Spiritual Abuse” which generated 60 comments and many emails and I found this one so compelling that I asked her permission to post it. In this email, Jeanette touches on some of the key sore spots that so many of us are dealing with in our frustration with Church and religious abuse.

 This problem isn’t just within the Christian Church and Christianity, but in many fellowships and even non religious organizations. At the heart of this problem is the misuse of power and control. Certain people get to dictate what is right and wrong, what is acceptable or not acceptable and in the Church many have decided what the bible really says and feel justified in judging others with it. It took me a while to get out of my own struggle with this aspect of abuse because I was afraid that if I went against them it was the equivalent to going against God himself. My mind questioned “What if they are right and I am wrong?” and deep down this was a constant fear that I had. But when I took a look deeper into that fear, what I was really afraid of is that if they were right, then I was really not even good enough for God and even though I believed that God would forgive, love and accept the rest of the world, He would never love me. When I started to share this dread with others, whispering in fear of who knows what… I found out that I am not the only one who feels this way.  We have a whole society of people who feel these fears and are afraid to talk about it; afraid to disappoint God. I was afraid of God because that is what controllers wanted me to be. It kept me pliable. It kept me doing the things that they wanted me to do. It kept me quiet.  It kept me in my victim mentality, and there is no freedom, love or grace in that mentality. At the heart of this message, we are discussing our frustration with the way that we have been conditioned; we are exposing the lies that we have been fed by people, not the bible, God, or Christ as a whole.

 Jeanette highlights a few other points in her letter:

Jeanette says

“Darlene, I’ve been stewing over the spiritual abuse issue and it’s had me going in all kinds of directions because of how it permeated every area of my being, and I know you can relate to this.

 One of the fallacies or lies of the current Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christianity is that there are short cuts to everything, that God has provided them and if we have the faith, they are ours.  There is a short cut to transformation, that ‘born again’ experience; there is a short cut to getting through physical infirmity, faith healing; there is a short cut to emotional healing, the spoken word of forgiveness.  It’s is all bullshit.  There are no short cuts, and as Christians we have been caught up in this false teaching and have been spinning around and around, knowing in our deepest parts that it doesn’t work, but too afraid to confront the entire foundation that we have built our world view upon.

 The road to healing, whether spiritual, emotional, relational, whatever, is never short and easy and a matter of just speaking a word and then moving on.  It is a long process that is filled with twists and turns and pain and triumph and every other thing that we encounter in life, there’s no getting around it.  And it pisses me off that people try to bully those of us who have figured this out into thinking we just lack spiritual insight and faith.  There is so much arrogance going on with this and it really pisses me off.  Many of us wouldn’t have had to endure half the pain we had, if hadn’t this added burden, this added layer of deception to work through.  More than just an added layer, it is a plethora of threads that are woven into every layer of our abuse and pain.

 I don’t know if I will ever be able to rejoin the Christian community frankly, I don’t believe I will ever have the stomach for it.  But one thing I am thankful for, and that is that I have at least gotten to this place, where I see the wrongness of that belief system and am able to walk away from it, shake the dust off my feet, and move on to a better life.  I’m NOT saying I am not going to remain a Christian, I just don’t know if I can rejoin the community, there are too many people who believe all this crap that seem to infiltrate every Christian community out there.  I’ve had enough of it for a thousand lifetimes.

Love, Jeanette”

 As always, we welcome your comments. Again I ask that you please understand that the point of this blog is not to trash the bible, God, Jesus or any religion, we are simply exposing the truth in order to heal from the lies and abuse that have us trapped in a cycle of being controlled by people (not God or Christ) to the extent that we could never feel good enough to deserve the love and acceptance of a higher power. When I recovered from spiritual abuse, I was able to have a relationship with God and to know that He is on my side. I am good enough, I am loveable, and I have purpose and I believe this to be the truth for all.

 Blessings and Love,

Darlene Ouimet

Categories : Family

18 Comments

1

Jeanette, what you’ve said really spoke to me. I had not thought about that aspect of “religious abuse” before… What you have shared is now a powerful part of my recovery too. There are no short cuts… and, we are worth the journey – we can experience more, and are more than just a notch on someone else’s “got saved/transformed/sanctified/whatever” list. Thank you Jeanette. Love and hugs, Carla

2

Jeanette–I believe that the feelings that we have with Christanity depend upon how the people of the church can manipulate us to feel. The mixed messages that I have got from Sunday services have been at the one end ~ I could’nt have been a better man and at the other extreem ~ I could have not done enough to meet God’s expectations. The mixed messages that I have learned since I was a kid are ones of repent your sins and become a better person – and then- you are already saved because of you are a kid, but the pressure was still on me because on the one hand God loves everybody, but on the other hand I was told to go out and spread the message to prove that I was a faithful servant. As I grew up the church afirmed that I was not good enough–the same as my parents had been telling me. I became afraid of God. I did not want to know more of Christ. I struggled with the judgements of the “people” of the church and wandereed further from religion. It wasn’t untill I was to be married that I started to go to church again. I found that many of the people that knew me as a child still had the same judgments but the pastor had changed. He preached Grace and Salvation. Everyone in the congregation seemed to have a warm fluffy feeling. More people attended church which made the elders happy. More people meant more donations, more donations meant more people would be saved, the more people that were saved the more Christ would be glorified. It came down to the same old story–do more, more, more. Be a better whitness to Christ. Get more people to come to church so we can build a new church–bigger and better. As my family grew we were expected to give more time, more money etc. to the church. With this came more guilt, more shame, when there was work to be done at home and family time to be taken. It was the same old story, no matter what I did, it was not enough. I was not good enough. Try harder Jimmy. The “people” still judged me and it didn’t dawn on me that none of it had anything to do with god or christ or the bible, it had to do with them, and what they wanted from me, which was never enough.
The whole “going to church thing” was exhausting. Being part of it was exhausting and I never felt encouraged in my relationship with God. It came down to what I could do for the church and I was told that God would “see me” as a better person. The spiritual abuse was horrific. I started to see how the “higher ups” could pick on easily manipulated people to do more and more. I don’t think that this is what the point of church is about. The point is the relationship between myself and Christ not about what I can do for the people of the church but I was never encouraged in that relationship. I was encouraged to do service work, welcome people, give money, and still told that it was never enough. I just wanted to say that the church was just an extension of the message that I had already been given by my parents; that I was not good enough and I had been well groomed to work harder to be good enough and try harder. It was easy for the church people to step into that role that my parents had already groomed me for. I had to step back to learn what the truth really was.

3

Thank you Jeanette you took the words right out of my mouth .. there is no short cuts or “quick fixes” … and using faith as though it is a magic wand that fixes everything is not what faith is about. I have stepped away from going to church … I have had to step back and see things for myself and not just follow blindly..

Truth is the Pharisees did not die out instead the Pharisees are still very much alive because man’s idea of religion has been handed down generation after generation …

Those who preach such doctrines and try to shove it down others throats as if they are God’s right hand man need to take heed it is not our place to judge or to say who has faith and who doesn’t that is a matter that is personal between God and the individual..

Of course it is hard to see things for the way it is because many don’t want to go against how they were raised I was afraid that I would disrespect and hurt my loved ones because if you want to ruffle some feathers just speak up and share the truth! In my life I have never seen feathers ruffle fast enough until the truth has been spoken..

Religion just adds on to the burden and weight of this life that is already hard enough when Jesus died on the cross He didn’t say “It is finished now make sure you follow every word of Brother so and so” no Jesus said “it is finished” meaning He accomplished what He was sent here to do and He didn’t need any one else to fulfill that purpose!

I just wrote a blog about free will .. another thing that I am seeing is how many believe that either God controls them or the devil controls them .. if they do good or something good happens God is in control if they do bad or something bad happens they blame the devil .. and this is handed down from one generation to another and it is a lie because God has given us a free will this means we have a choice and we are responsible for our own actions blaming the devil is not taking responsibility for our own actions instead it gives him credit and destroys who we truly are because we lie to ourselves when we place blame on someone else instead of owning up to the things that we do .. we can’t be healed, we can’t be forgiven, and we cant break free until we are honest and honesty has to began with ourselves because if we are not honest with ourselves then we wont be honest with God or anyone else.. and as for bad things happening to us well doesn’t God create every day thus He knows what is ahead when we blame the devil for bad things that happen to us we again deceive ourselves because it is in those moments that are so dark and hard to deal with that much personal growth can happen but if we are looking for someone to blame then we stunt our own growth.. God is not a respecter of persons meaning the rain falls on the good and the wicked … now how we choose to deal with that is left up to us that is our free will!

Again Jeanette thank you for speaking up because it is the truth many don’t speak up due to fear … and I have reached a point in my life that fear is not an option I must go forward and keep going.. (((HUGS))) to you! and thank you Darlene for sharing this both you and Carla have helped me in many ways! God Bless

4

I wanted to thank all of you for your support and for not judging me. Some people may read what I wrote and think I am being too harsh or that I am just rebellious or bitter. But the fact of the matter is, when you grow up with abuse, lots of different kinds of abuse, and then you are also fed the message that you are somehow ‘stained by sin’, and as a child you know that what has been done to you was sin, but you have absorbed it as your own sin and not that of the ones doing this to you, you become very warped in your view of life and God and your destiny. It is the same thing as in any belief system, when you are conditioned to believe in your inherent evil, instead of your inherent good, you have no hope. And all the sermons in the world about our hope being in God does you no good when you don’t believe that God will ever accept you because of all the stuff going on inside you because of what you have experienced in life.

Just wanted to give a little more explanation concerning my feelings, my experiences with abuse both inside the religious system I was brought up in and outside it. They all meld together to create a terrible mess, and a person is fortunate if they ever get to a place in their life where they can sort it all out and have hope of finding freedom and peace.

Hugs,
Jeanette

5

Thanks everyone for the comments.

Jeanette, thanks for contributing to the blog in this way ~ sharing your honest truth. Thanks for letting me publish was started off as a personal email about your reaction to another post. I believe that it is very powerful and that others who feel this same way will feel validated by having read it.

If only people could see that shoving God down peoples throats isn’t helping anyone, and often adds to the guilt and shame that already exists. All that I am suggesting in my message of healing is that it is okay and necessary to take a step back. To take a look at where the problem started, to take a look at the roots of it and then what contributed after that to keeping you held back and shut down and kept you from being who you were born to be, AND then, when all that is cleared out of the way, it is possible to build a new life based on truth. I believe that when others react to this kind of article that they react out of their own fears and many of those fears began in the same place ~ people in their lives, misused control and power. We are so afraid to go against anything we have been taught in case someone gets angry. When it comes to church lies and spiritual issues, many of us are afraid that if we disagree with any of our teachers, that we are going against God and He will get angry. There is no freedom in that system.

Hugs! Love Darlene

6

Darlene, I couldn’t agree with you more. You exquisitely defined the problem and the consequences of this insidious indoctrination. I am an ex-Catholic that spent years finally concluding that I did not need a middleman like religion to lead me to God. I simply needed to trust that this Ultimate Spirit would lead me, provided I would be willing to listen to the Small Voice within me. The mission would become clear.
It did after a nasty divorce, various other trials, and hitting rock bottom. My philosophical book emerged over a 12 year period titled “Destiny Charted”. I have never turned back or sought another religion. The knowledge or inspiration I gained, only leads me forward and away from competing religions and all their pharisaical teachings. I try to live out my destiny by example and tweet so that others can lift themselves out of the propaganda of governments, religions and corporations. Women are still the scapegoats of society, the elephant in the room no one wants to listen to, and shows the great need to get the Equal Rights Amendment included in the US Constitution. Equality and justice for everyone. Wouldn’t God be smiling?

7

I think that one of the biggest causes contributing to the perpetuating of spiritual abuse, is the fear of talking about it. No one wants to talk about bad things that have happened for fear of not being believed, or fear of what others will say, or even fear of God’s wrath. The hierarchy of the church doesn’t want to talk about it for fear of tarnishing their image in “the world.” So everything just continues on happening because no one says or does anything about it. I think that it is healthy we can come together and talk about the problems we had, in an effort to overcome them. And honestly, I think that breaking the illusion of perfection is probably better for the church as a whole. I know people who won’t go to church because they feel that they are not good enough. Not good enough? Is that really the way God wants the church to be?
I guess my whole point is that we need to bring the abuses into the spotlight before they will stop. A body cannot heal until an infection is removed – and so the body of Christ (the church) cannot heal until the abuse is removed.

8

I was seven years old the first time that someone told me I was going to Hell. That person was a very strict religious aunt who was Penecostal. According to her, I was going to Hell because I was wearing a pair of shorts on a hot Summer day. I never liked that aunt even before that day. She was always a mean lady who according to her had a perfect daughter who could do no wrong. That perfect daughter grew up to become an alcoholic and died young from a worn out liver. I can understand why she became an alcoholic.

I have always, seemingly from birth, known there was more to life than religion taught me. One of my grandmothers was Baptist. The other was Assembly of God. Neither of my parents went to church except for funerals and weddings. I grew up, got married to a young man that grew up in the Church of Christ. We didn’t go to church until after our children were born. I was baptized into a neighborhood Church of Christ. For a few years that was good but I still knew there was much that they taught that I didn’t believe. I knew there was more than they were teaching me. Even so, for years I stayed in the Church of Christ. Then for over 2 years we were houseparents in group foster homes that were supported by the Churches of Christ. We were expected to be in church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night. No excuses were acceptable for missing church. We quit being houseparents after two years. I was burned out with having church forced down my throat for 2 years. My husband quit because I did or so he says.

When I started 12-Step programs, I found a God of my understanding. I found a loving God, not a harsh, punishing God. I found a God who said that I had free will to make my own choices and that those choices always had consequences. I found out that I am always responsible for what I do with my life. I can stay and wallow in the past and blame everyone else for what is going on in my life or I can work through the pain and the memories and make a better tomorrow for myself. I don’t have to let what my parents and others did to me control my life.

As I have grown, I have studied little bits of other religions from around the world and I have found something good in each of them. I have decided to live a spiritual life instead of a religious one. I can’t quote very much of the Bible to you or any other religious book. I know in my heart what is right for me. I listen to God speaking through my guides and my angels and even through other people. I listen to that small, quiet voice in my head that guides me in the direction I need to go.

Like others here, I have had forgiveness rammed down my throat. I tried and tried to do it and punished myself when it just didn’t work. I did finally forgive my dad but not until I had worked through the feelings of hurt, anger, betrayal and grief. That took many years. I did forgive him but in my time, not the church’s time. I haven’t forgotten and I still sometimes get angry at him but I don’t carry it around in my body to the degree that I once did.

I have had some people preach to me and tell me that I am going to Hell for what I believe today. I just smile and tell them we will see when we die what happens. I think they will be the ones in for a surprise.

I hope that I have said something here that helps someone else. I feel like I am rambling.

9

Maureen,
Thanks for your comments. There is much wisdom in what you say. I often think that fear is what gets in the way of the truth. We as a people can be so afraid to see the truth in case it busts a huge hole in our entire belief system that we are then faced with having to take a new look at everything… which is exactly what happens too ~ but the freedom is worth the difficutly of facing the b.s. Thanks for being here and for your support! Hugs, Darlene

10

Tracy, you really hit it with your first few sentences. People have been so brain washed by ohter people that they really do fear going against PEOPLE will bring on the wrath of God.. because we have been taught the wrath of God. We have been taught to be afraid of God.
AND I like everything else you said here too. LOL Thanks so much. I consider this blog to be somewhat part of that spotlight you mention! Thanks for your comments!
Hugs, Darlene

Patricia,
No mater what you say I feel your love, acceptence and support and you are an example to others of that. I learned my first real relationship with God through 12 step programs too. And then I wanted to go formal.. LOL I learned much and I am not sorry, because now realize that the way the Bible is manipulated and butchered was killing my spirit. (spirit abuse) I am glad that I have studied it extensively because I recognize the way that it is manipulated and used as a weapon for the purposes of controling others.
Hugs, Darlene

11

Thanks for this great topic. I speak, write, teach about religious authority sexual abuse, the healing process following it and prevention for it. Tom Doyle and Marianne Benkert have a great article about ‘Religious Duress’ that speaks to spiritual abuse and the ways people ae conditioned and generally coerced to lose their own capacity to think critically and find god on their own terms or experiences. Congrats to all who are discovering their own voices and thinking critically to discover God in and around themselves.

I have written “Healing the Sexually Abused Heart: A Workbook for Survivors, Thrivers, and Supporters” that offers a kind of spiritual map for the journey from victim of spiritual abuse to spiritual ‘thriving.’ Peace to all on the journey.

Peace,

Jaime

12

[…] This is spiritual abuse. Some people call it church abuse or religious abuse. […]

13

Darlene, I so agree with your comment #5. We have to decide for ourselves. And to do that, it’s good to explore where our beliefs and attitudes were formed. Were we conditioned, manipulated, threatened: “God will get you for this!”
Has anyone on your blog explored the commandment “Honor Thy Mother and Thy Father” in the context of one of the reasons we do not tell of abuse?

14

Hi Lynn
I have talked about this concept in MANY posts without using the exact commandment quote. This is a huge root of the problem.
One of the biggest stick points is the fear of going against parents for fear of what might happen. I had to examine what the fear really was and what I thought might happen. The truth is not as scary as I thought it was.
Hugs, Darlene

15

POWER AND POWERLESSNESS /
RIGHT AND LEFT

Why does the Bible, and why does Jesus, tell us to care for the poor and the outsider? It is because we all need to stand in that position for our own conversion. We each need to stand under the mercy of God, the forgiveness of God, and the grace of God—to understand the very nature of reality. When we are too smug and content, then grace and mercy have no meaning—and God has no meaning. Forgiveness is not even desired. When we have pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps, religion is always corrupted because it doesn’t understand the mystery of how divine life is transferred, how people change, and how life flows. It has been said by others that religion is largely filled with people who are afraid of hell, and spirituality is for people who have gone through hell.

Jesus is always on the side of the crucified ones. He is not loyal to one religion, or this or that group, or the “worthy” ones—Jesus is loyal to suffering itself, wherever it is. He is just as loyal to the suffering of Iraqis or Afghanis as he is to the suffering of Americans. He is just as loyal to an oppressed gay man as he is to an oppressed married woman. We do not like that! He grabs all of our self-created boundaries away from us, and suddenly all we have is a free fall into the arms of God, who is our only and solid security. This seems to be God’s very surprising agenda, if I am to believe the Bible.

Adapted from A Lever and a Place to Stand, pp. 100-10
author: Richard Rohr (Francescan Monk)

16

Trigger time! I dont NEED TO be raped to understand rape, mercy, forgiveness, love. What is the point in writing our stories down if people dont need to read to understand? All I here is people telling me what God is about… when in fact I believe differently, seems that’s all people tend to do. The more nice they are with gentile words the more upset I get with how it reminds me of the fakes, the nicest child abusers who lure followers. No agenda from God is surprising to me, only thing that surprises me is how we have so many gurus and preachers with all the simple answers to Gods real agendas and purposes. And so many styles in how the truth is delivered so that lives are saved from hell. Even when people are upset at someone else judging them and stating its wrong scripturally, upsets me because they are dictating what judging means. Its like what the preacher said to the child who was molested and her family, not to judge. Or what a thief says to the person he robbed, because he was sorry yet has done this for years…could it be he was sorry because he was caught instead? Oh, but I guess were not aloud to judge and forget the scriptures saying its wrong to steal and the consequences to those deeds. but then there is another scripture to change that thought, and another. People are sorry for different reasons, they use scripture to suit their own core beliefs and refine or explain their own ideas. All scripture looks good, doesn’t necessarily mean they are used or suited for the good of all. Who has the ability to stand up against abuse, when our minds are bent? When our minds are conditioned, when all we want to do is love and change for the better? When you cant even trust what you know or feel anymore?

17

You have all helped me with triggers, and also with why I am so sick inside. It is true that there is internalizing, and self sabotaging in my case out of fear. Becoming afraid to do anything, afraid of acting like a victim, afraid of not fighting when i should, afraid of more traps, of not trusting when I should, and afraid of trusting when I shouldn’t. Afraid to speak up or get punished, called the crazy one, on and on. Afraid of myself, worse is being afraid of God… rather than displeasing God. Loving God when you dont really know him. Feeling like God is like all the men in your life, unavailable and silent unless we look beyond words, touch, and look at what is around us instead. No amount of gift or promise replaces the need to have a purpose and someone who loves you back. The guilt I feel for not being more patient, not waiting, not being good enough effects my relationships with men. I cant date, never have and I did try, only to fail from another unavailable person. There controlling people. manipulative so that i really cannot tell the difference. This whole blog deals with so many reasons why we say its our fault and are unhealthy emotionally. All I know is that I alienated myself from so much just to stay away from life because I dont know what God or people are all about any more and dont like being told what something is anymore. I fight for the underdog, and dont care about things like I use to. I dont trust so many things, and feel emptied. I’m starting to get some things back, but it is so hard when people are nice to you and you know there liars and narcissistic out for themselves and going to hurt others. No one says or does anything about it. Its hard when your also shunned. My life’s worth something because through out all of this, I sure have met beautiful people that mean more than all those others, and all the money in the world because they let me be a part of there… really good decent people who put up with me. All the people responding about religion here seem to be real, and beautiful. So sad religion has become a weapon.

18

This is soooo incredibly true. I also found that after I left my Pathological husband of 21 years that the church refused me, because I was “divorced”. They never even found out what happened. I could not even serve in a new church – after my divorce – they did not trust me, and literally had “no place” for me as an unmarried older woman.

Like anything, Christianity can become a club… and very cliquey. I have struggled deeply with this as a Christian. I agree so much with this post because I deeply identify with EVERYTHING she says. Not one thing has been easy in my recovery. It is DAY by DAY… moment by moment… and that, right there, is the beauty of being in a Relationship with the Lord… and not being ‘churchy’. I will take a relationship (and most sundays I am not in a ‘church’) over ‘Religion’ any day of the week.

The Lord Jesus always had time for those lowly/humble men and women in life, and he always showed them His love… and time, unlike what we see around us today. “Neo-Christianity”.

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