Spiritual Abuse by Religion is Certainly not a New Problem
Why do we let it happen to us or to our fellow Christians?
We need to be open about how Christians and churches have hurt people in the name of Jesus. It hurts me deeply and it grieves the Holy Spirit. Abuse is about control and manipulation that harms a person’s spiritual life and their relationship with God.
In the Old Testament, the prophet Ezekiel chastised the religious leaders of the day for harming their followers. Ezekiel 34:1-16 addresses this problem. We see it again in Jeremiah 50:6. Wow, spiritual abuse by religion isn’tt a modern problem at all.
Not Just the Leaders Who Are Abusive
A loyal following often surrounds abusive Christian leaders. Whether they’re misled spiritually themselves or part of the abuse, this inner circle can be even more abusive in the name of religion or in support of a personality leader. Ezekiel 17- 22 gives us a clear picture of what God thinks of spiritual abuse by religion within the congregation or church body.
In my personal spiritual journey and frequent moves to different cities, I’ve been in several denominations and churches. Spiritual abuse led me to explore my own relationship with God as opposed to being religious. Indeed, I’ve come to feel insulted if referred to as religious with the meaning it has to me.
Why Am I Writing About Spiritual Abuse in Religion?
I’ve written in my previous articles on spiritual self-abuse and spiritual abuse by well-intentioned Christians that I’d never even heard the term spiritual abuse. I awoke one morning with the term loudly in my mind and no idea why. When I googled “spiritual abuse” I was shocked at the large amount written about it.
After reading many articles and definitions, I decided to write 4 articles on spiritual abuse. This is the third in the series.
I now realize I’d experienced spiritual abuse by religion in many small ways over the years. Sometimes it was unintentional but in other congregations, it had become their way of doing things. I had not even attended a fundamental or legalistic church where it is more obvious to outsiders.
Jesus, Himself, condemned spiritual abuse by religion in Matthew 23. Yes, the whole chapter is His rantings against the religious leaders who were abusing the people.
Why do people stay in abusive churches?
They could be blind or ignorant of scripture. They may not have noticed the abuse especially if it’s all they’ve known. They may be afraid of losing the community they’ve been part of for a long time. It can be very lonely in a new church. The stories are so varied whether they stayed or left.
The only Protection from Spiritual Abuse by Religion
You can protect yourself by having a personal relationship with God, your loving Heavenly Father. God gave His Son, Jesus, to us so He could have fellowship directly with us. We don’t need any other go between but Jesus.
We need to learn about the heart of God by reading His Word, by communing with Him in prayer and by being still before Him so we can see Him and hear Him. I know, there are so many ways we can see Him and hear Him every day but we often miss Him in our busyness.Religion oppresses but relationship is freeing. Do you have a relationship with God? Click To Tweet
So Why Would You Want to Attend a Church?
The simple answer is because we are told to fellowship with other believers and to worship with the body of Christ as well as alone.
You need to find a church that supports and nurtures your personal relationship with God. A church should feel totally safe as a place to be vulnerable and open to each other. A place to join your hearts in agreement for community prayer, to worship and to serve others in the body of Christ with your gifts.
What Does Spiritual Abuse by Religion Have to do with Marriage?
If you’ve been living with guilt and shame in any way, you’re experiencing spiritual abuse of one kind or another. It’s time to live in forgiveness and love through the relationship God wants to have with you. I wrote on the topic of losing your joy in your Christian faith through guilt and shame.
Many Christian wives feel guilty or ashamed if they struggle with marriage in general or from time to time. They see the smiling faces in church but often don’t get to know each other well. Even on the internet, many bloggers put a happy face on marriage and are afraid to be vulnerable in telling their stories. How refreshing are the ones who do, especially if they acknowledge their ongoing struggles.
Some wives begin to wonder what’s wrong with them or their husband. Aren’t they supposed to be blessed? Hopefully, they haven’t run into some common types of abuse that are gender based or require abuse victims to stay with their abusers.
Marriage is not always easy. Even the Magnificent Marriages have their struggles and need maintenance to keep them humming smoothly. The support of a Godly church is very important.
I’ve included a link to my Free guide to the 3 Steps to Create a Magnificent Marriage. These foundation steps upon which a great marriage is built are much easier within a spiritually supportive church.
Have you found your church home and family? Is your church dysfunctional or abusive? Do you need to look for another family to serve and worship in? Are you afraid of being accused of church shopping?
Share in the comments or on social.
Additional resources for you.
http://www.marydemuth.com/spiritual-abuse-10-ways-to-spot-it/ some subtle signs of abuse within ministries
http://www.spiritualabuse.com/?page_id=41 a long but interesting story of abuse by a minister and his wife and how one couple spotted it, finally left and their road to recovery. Very well written and worth reading.
http://www.bandbseminars.com/spiritual%20abuse%20checklist.pdf a downloadable lengthy checklist of signs of religious abuse.