I want this site to be all about the victims for once. I could talk for hours and hours about the terrible mistreatment that I have received and watched others receive at the hands of those who call themselves the men and women of God. But honestly? Who has the time?
Sidenote: If you’re an abuser and you’re still proud of that, you can stop reading here. I’m not talking to you. You probably don’t want to get all sweaty and worked up over this anyway. 😉
They’ve gotten all the attention I want them to ever receive. Right now, I want to talk directly to the hurting. To the scared. Confused. Traumatized. Angry. Overwhelmed. And dead-dog tired. Not the kind of tired where you can be helped by a good night’s sleep. No. The kind of tired that worms its way into your bones and makes it hard to lift one foot in front of the other. This kind of tired comes from “fighting the good fight” and never feeling victorious. It comes from spending what feels like a lifetime trying to conjure up some “feeling” inside you that everyone seems to have while talking to a God who never seems to talk back. It comes from taking a deep breath, forcing a plastic smile on, and having to watch everyone plastic smile right back at you. It comes from selling the gospel like a sleazy used car salesman, counting the souls you’ve saved like the notches on your belt and turning in “focus reports” with the amount of “salvations” on it for the week. It comes from being told that your money is good enough for a college degree in theology and the Bible, but that your vagina disqualifies you from becoming a preacher, pastor, minister, reverend, or any type of leader within the church. It comes from being sexually assaulted and being told to “keep quiet” because everyone will blame YOU for being alone in a room with a man. It comes from being told since infancy that, since you were born with a vagina and not a penis, your body is inherently sinful and must be covered at all costs. And if it isn’t covered, all men, including supposedly good, Christian, married men, will immediately begin to rape you in their minds…and try to rape you in real life, if given the chance. Then they will be excused because “boys will be boys”.
I’m here to tell you something… it’s crap. All of it.
I don’t care what your religion is or how you practice your faith. Anything that demeans, degrades, and endangers human beings in that way is wrong and twisted and is a perversion of the God they claim to serve. Period.
Usually there would be qualification after that and it would say something like “now don’t get me wrong, lots of places are like this, but not alllllll….” No. See, what I’ve learned when people say “but not all” is that they aren’t really trying to explain something, they’re actually just trying to justify, defend, or remove themselves from the shame of the original, bad behavior. “But not all white people” “But not all men” “But not all churches” OF COURSE it’s not ALL of them. The world would be truly be Hell on earth if “all” of everything was the worst of everything!! It’s a ridiculous and unnecessary statement. So, no. Not ALL religious institutions are like this. Mine is the farthest thing away from anything that remotely resembles spiritual injustice and abuse. But there are ENOUGH. There are TOO MANY. And it’s time we stop being silent about it. It won’t go away by pretending it doesn’t exist. It won’t stop by obeying gag orders and intimidation tactics to stop “spreading discord about the people of God”. That’s gas-lighting and it won’t work here. I mentioned recently to several friends that “just because you point out a problem, does not make you the problem.” There is an excellent chapter on “false peace” in the book entitled The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. When those around you cry, “Peace! Peace! But there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14), you know you’re in trouble. Don’t let someone trick or shame you into ignoring abuse or misuse of religious power that is happening right in front of your own eyes.
So, the first step to escaping an abusive situation is to acknowledge that it exists. You can’t get anywhere if you are content to simply remain in silence, subdued, and coerced into compliance. Recognize that you are being manipulated. Then you can go from there. Let me add one additional note here: if you have to say in your mind that, “it’s not that bad” or “it could be worse”…there’s a problem. Yes, church is made up of human people (just like everything else on earth), but it is NOT normal to live in a toxic environment. It is NOT normal to say “it could be worse”. It is NOT normal to feel suffocated, controlled, and pressured to live by someone else’s rules for your personal life.
If this first blog posts encourages you to do anything, let it be these two things: First, take an objective step back from the situation and evaluate it in the light of any other social interaction. Would this behavior be acceptable from a co-worker? From a neighbor? From a non-church friend? Would that same co-worker, neighbor, or non-church friend tolerate this behavior if it were coming from you? If the answer is no…you are in an abusive, controlling situation. Second, if possible, strip away every ounce of “Christianese” and platitudes for the moment. How do you feel? Are you at peace? Do you feel content, loved, and secure in Christ? Is there anxiety and sadness because of your religion? Do you feel guilty for questioning rules or standards? These seem like such simple suggestions, but, in reality, can be hard to put into practice. Often, we are so trained to ignore tell-tale warning signs as “the devil’s attacks” that we fall right into the trap and the cycle continues to spiral around and around.
Now let me provide a little hope. Even if you did nothing tonight except read this article and let a few words sink into your heart…that’s okay. Escaping the silence and the silencers does not happen overnight. You visited the page. You kept reading, even when it got hard and you felt like cringing. And that’s enough for right now. There will be tough decisions down the road. But you’ll come to them when you’re ready. For now, just know there are people out there who understand. Who love you. And who support you right where you are.
Or maybe you’re at this point and scoffing, “Who really has it that bad?” The answer is countless men and women are trapped. Right under our noses. What can you do to help? Support ministries that work to free them. Love the people you come in contact with. If you are religious, pray that God will reveal true Love to them. And be grateful this struggle is not yours to bear. Join with us. Contact me if you want to get more involved!
Most of all, the most important thing for every reader to know is that they are not alone. God created you. God loves you. And God created other people who know your struggles, have felt your fear, shame, and confusion and have come out stronger on the other side. By the way, Jesus walked this road first. He is intimately aware of how it feels to struggle against power hungry, religious leaders. Don’t worry, friend. We will walk this journey together. We will not be silenced. We have been saved from that.