The Silence is Broken…Again

How many times does it take for people to speak up before those in authority do something about wrong in their midst? Silencing people through intimidation and warnings to be obedient to church leadership are all symptoms of a dysfunctional religious organization and it is apparently very effective. When members feel they are better off not knowing what is wrong, there’s something very wrong. When church members have the attitude that they wish they didn’t know and cry “ I just want to go to church and be left alone,” there’s a serious problem. When people close their eyes to sin and wrong on one hand, and on the other hand, claim to hold up the blood-stained banner against all wrong in the name of Christ, again, something is seriously wrong.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke.

A few weeks ago, I was harassed on social media by someone from my former church organization. It had to be. Who else would care that much? For about 4 weeks, whenever I shared from this blog on Facebook, the person or persons would launch a complaint to FB that it was “ objectionable content.” FB in their attempt to err on the side of the complainer banned all links and information from this blog.

The bullies were out to harass me all over again, but it’s all good!

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I’m stronger now.

When I explained to FB that these articles didn’t fall within the definition of “objectionable content,” they restored my ability to post. I think it helped that other people were recounting their stories of spiritual abuse on my page. Their support made it clearer that my articles were based in fact and not aimed at particular people but at the wrong being perpetrated in certain churches. Thanks to Facebook for listening to my appeals.

Well, the silence is being broken. Current members and former members supported my articles by sharing their own stories on FB about abusive behavior, and others wrote in directly and gave me permission to post their stories.

So stay tuned!

If you want to read more about spiritual abuse and how to recover, read Jeff VanVonderen’s books on the subject. He has appeared on the show Intervention several times.

I spoke with him briefly a few years ago looking for help. I was surprised to catch him. As I told him my story, he encouraged me by these few simple words –“You won.” He told me that anytime a person escapes from dysfunction, they win. I didn’t feel like a winner at the time. I was still suffering emotionally, but I understood his point. I had been holding to church standards for 30 years whether I personally agreed with them or not, trying to uphold unity for Christ’s sake, and raised my children in this. I thought about the things that I couldn’t do over again. I was feeling a great sense of loss and sadness. It was a feeling that took me years to overcome.

When your eyes come open, and you can get away to heal, it is indeed a great win.

Even after going to another church in our denomination, I found many of the same abusive behaviors (not so much toward me but others). Different location, same system. Unfortunately, strong authoritarian leadership was in the DNA of our organization, and it was not likely to change. I spoke with people from other churches in other parts of the country. Same problems, politics, fear, and mistreatment all seemed be part of the package. But I kept hoping for change because I loved the people, I loved what was taught about holy living and I believed leadership would listen since they talked about change so much. They didn’t want to deal with these matters or correct one another, so what ‘s a girl to do. It was so distracting to my spiritual walk to see all of this stuff and just see people who could do something simply nod their heads, humor me, agree its terrible and just keep going along with the insanity.

What Is Spiritual Abuse?

Religious abuse can come in many forms and can be hard to define. It goes beyond sexual harassment even though that’s horrible in and of itself and is an act filled with manipulation. Religious abuse can be subtle and spiritually deadly. Here are some examples: Anyone using their spiritual authority to harass and humiliate you and making you believe that this is OK because of their position. It can be oppressive practices masquerading as biblical precepts. It can be a cult of personality and charisma where people are willing to follow one man or woman anywhere they go (this happened in our denomination. A whole congregation left one state to follow their pastor to another State). A very dangerous precedent.

What is awful about spiritual abuse is that people come to church in a vulnerable position.

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They open their heart and give their trust, out of love to God and a desire to do the right thing. When that trust is crushed, it’s devastating. Many just walk away from religion altogether.

A person gives their life to Christ and places their spiritual well-being in the hands of a leader who they assume to be a shepherd, minister or religious leader and not a wolf that will threaten to devour them at every turn. They want them to be someone who loves their soul & cares about their welfare. Even though that doesn’t always happen, and there are real skunks out here calling themselves religious leaders, you have to maintain your relationship with God. Belonging to a particular church will not save you. It never did. Man is weak, and finite but Christ is eternal. The only thing that matters is love and obedience to your creator.

Again, if you have stories of damaged faith or even indirect effects of dysfunctional religion feel free to send them to me at grsem7@gmail.com or feel free to share them below in the comments section.