Recovering From Abusive Christianity Pt.1

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”- Carl Jung

When I was ten years old, I sat in my Sunday school class and was told by my Sunday school teacher that someday I was going to be murdered by the anti-Christ (an interpretation that he made out of the book Revelation). An intuition arose in me and I spoke out loud with these words, “I have a problem that God wants to bring the world to peace by sending a man to kill others.” To which he replied, “Don’t question the Bible. Don’t question the Church.” I remember these words vividly to this day. It meant a lot to me, because, although I couldn’t tell you who I was, I began a journey in telling myself who I didn’t want to be.

Much abuse has happened under the banner of Christianity. And, much of it is has a response similar to my Sunday school teacher‘s, “Don’t question the Church. Don’t question the Bible. Don’t question God.” Still, it has not stopped a few brave people, a few courageous prophets from saying, “This doesn’t work for me. This can’t be all that there is.” Along the way, these brave, courageous souls are met with much resistance and much hostility. They’re met with a certain kind of violence, a violence to the soul. They’re met with a spiritual abuse.

What drives people to commit these violent acts against the souls of others? Parker Palmer said it best when he said, “People become violent when they no longer know what to do with their suffering.” The presence of those who want to be liberated is met with oppression because their presence causes other people to feel fear, to experience anxiety, to bring about a kind of suffering. Sadly, these people are adding more and more pain to people who long for freedom. The person asking questions, seeking greater awareness, longing for higher consciousness, is already in pain. They need answers, solutions, direction, because their life is telling them that this is no longer working for them. The black and white answers don’t bring peace to their soul. The awareness of the Church as an institution causes them to grow frustrated. The way they see the world and how God or the Church is engaged in it causes them great disappointment. Their souls are not satisfied, and instead of being met with generosity and encouragement, they’re met with violent spiritual abuse by people who cannot bear the pain of change.

For years, I have been frustrated, jaded, and cynical towards Christianity. And, after all these years, I still feel the disappointment. But, maybe after some of the initial anger or frustration towards them are gone, I now have begun to feel compassion. I see that there are people who do not know how to handle their depravity (read emptiness, brokenness) and so they rely on contempt towards themselves and others for not seeing things the way they do. I feel sympathy towards them because they get stuck, lost, or complacent, and they lose out on the freedom and peace that comes with a greater understanding of the presence and conscious awareness of God. As with every violent act committed against someone, there is anger, frustration, and grief, but it is my hope that we can find peace, wholeness, and restoration that comes from the abusive side of Christianity. If we cannot, then the world will not know Jesus because we have failed to learn how to love one another.

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8 thoughts on “Recovering From Abusive Christianity Pt.1

  1. Nics Cahill says:

    Sensitive, inspiring, writing. Reminding me that God meets us in our brokeness, and touches our heart’s with his healing. All we have to do is come.

  2. Pat Pope says:

    Your first line reminds me of an e-mail I got from a lady at my last church. She was upset that the new pastor recently said in a sermon, “God murdered Jesus.” I encouraged her to humbly address the concern with the pastor in the hopes that it can be cleared up.

    “People become violent when they no longer know what to do with their suffering.” The presence of those who want to be liberated is met with oppression because their presence causes other people to feel fear, to experience anxiety, to bring about a kind of suffering. Sadly, these people are adding more and more pain to people who long for freedom.”

    So true and well said. Again at my last church, there was one leader whose pet doctrine was entire sanctification, yet he showed little of it in his own life. I came to the conclusion, as did others, that this individual had some issues he needed to deal with and that he wasn’t happy. Often, people like this will use these doctrines as a means of control for what they feel is a world that is out of control. In the midst of a changing world and changing church, some people feel the need to try to exert control on the system in an effort to stop change rather than embracing it.

  3. RE: Recovering From Abusive Christianity
    Mike…what an excellent piece. For a moment I felt like there was a sweet comforter that knew my particular pain and unexpected grief as I set my church up to higher standards of Lordship as your article so rightfully displayed. Only Jesus is Lord, righteous and without sin. And to Him alone will I trust. I’m learning to put people in their rightful positions of leadership never equal with my Savior…and never is abuse ever accepted in God’s kingdom. Sick people are merely sick. Use our minds…if one’s pastoral behavior is non-biblical, God will have justice. Abuse is never acceptable! Consult the church…if they are unwilling to listen.
    Walk away…dust off your sandals! The pain of 14 years is unexpressable to leave behind families, ministries and friends that I love and have served along side. But to live in truth prevails.

  4. Danny says:

    I agree with questioning the “church”, it can be a very real trap or an excuse that prevents growth as a Christian. Rather than questioning God, we need to questions man.

  5. Jeff O. says:

    Thank you Mike! I have felt alone and adrift since taking charge in my former church to help oust a pastor who had problems with honesty and integrity. Once the change was made, I cut my ties with the church and have sought recovery because the wounds cut deep. Thank you for this truth and for the reminder that we are not alone, even on this journy that seems solitary. I’ve felt so isolated, similar to what Jennifer said — cut off from those I felt were family. But I do not blame them. It is the people problem of the church. I’m still “tight” with God! 🙂 And the hardliners give the church SUCH a bad name, especially in the news these days. I preach love and being nonjudgemental, even to fundamentalists, but there is no changing them. So thank you for this spark of hope and truth. I hope others find it when they need it!

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