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Spiritual Abuse


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I am a survivor of what I believe to be spiritual abuse! I spent many years rebelling against my Pentecostal upbringing. Hell-fire was a constant theme of the sermons, and having a vivid imagination I had no difficulty in imagining myself in the lake of fire. Sunday became my most disliked day of the week; I often developed a tummy ache just before going to church. The pain was real enough, but psychosomatic in origin. My late paternal Grandmother, used to re-enforce the concept of hell when I had to suffer having Sunday lunch at her house, on my own! She would tell me how naughty little girls would burn forever in the flames of hell, if they didn’t repent! I knew how much fire hurt, having burnt my finger quite badly by striking an illicit match. Grandma said that as painful as my finger was, I should imagine how it would feel to be burning all over for eternity! The subsequent terrible nightmares damaged my psyche profoundly. I hope that my Grandmother had no idea of the harm she was inflicting in trying to ‘save’ my immortal soul. My parents were most upset when, years later, I told them what had happened!

 

I was told I should love God, but at the same time fear him. To me, even as a child, that was an oxymoron. How can you love someone you fear will throw you into a fire to burn forever and ever? For many years I completely rejected God and all things Christian, only revisiting my spirituality after my 50th birthday in 2000. I am still in the seeking phase, and look at life from a liberal Christian perspective.

 

I was talking over the subject of spiritual abuse with my youngest daughter (30). You can imagine my horror when she disclosed that she had also suffered this form of abuse, in Sunday school, as a child! A Sunday school teacher told our girl that as my husband and I didn't attend church, we would burn in hell, as would our daughter if she stopped attending Sunday school. She was too scared to tell us in case we removed her from this God forsaken place, and she was condemned to hell. I remember that she had a lot of nightmares, and used to come into bed with us most nights. If only she had told us what was happening at the time, we could have spared her years of distress.

 

I set up a discussion of this topic on a religious forum, and was amazed to find I had opened the floodgates for many to unburden themselves of the abuse they had endured in the past. Much of it was far worse than anything I had experienced. It would appear that spiritual abuse sometimes goes hand in hand with sexual and physical maltreatment, compounding the suffering.

 

It is possible that some preachers get a perverted sexual gratification from preaching violent sermons. As a teenager, I attended a service conducted by a guest preacher. His sermon should have had an adult classification, depicting as it did, rape and torture among the flames of hell! He was so caught up with his theme that he was practically frothing at the mouth! The congregation were stunned; I was so disgusted that I walked out, taking my younger sisters with me. Our parents, who had not attended the service, were dismayed that we should have been subjected to such a harangue. They were becoming disenchanted with the Pentecostal movement in general, and decamped to an evangelical Anglican church, which preached the gospel in a more moderate and measured way.

 

Victims of spiritual abuse often feel that God is in some way to blame for their suffering. In consequence, many reject Christianity, thinking the faith has let them down. If spiritual abuse separates us from the love of God, it is on a par with physical and sexual abuse, in my opinion!

 

I am coming to terms with this childhood ordeal, whilst I shall never be able to forget the trauma, I will endeavour not to let it become so much of a stumbling block to my spiritual growth, as it has been in the past.

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Welcome loveapple !

 

You'll find a lot of sympathetic company here. As you pointed out in your post this sort of abuse is contagious and intergenerational. But then that's how evil has always worked to separate and divide those who should be bound together in love.

 

It's been kind of quiet on this forum the past few months, but read some of the past threads and I believe that you'll find a lot of comfort in our company when things get going again.

 

flow.... :)

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Join the club.

 

Many misguided souls here in the U.S. seem to have taken that practice up as one of their lifetime goals it seems. How boring that must be !

 

I now dread the election season as they are now beginning to air their hate filled attack ads against mostly middle of the road and liberal candidates. It forces one to not watch TV much of the time since the ads are very unsettling with their disturbing and negative messages which are meant to scare unsuspecting potential voters into not voting for such candidates. Definitely one of the downer factors in living in a democracy. People with money are allowed to advertise hate, and it diminishes all who watch or become involved in the process.

 

flow.... :unsure:

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Join the club.

 

Many misguided souls here in the U.S. seem to have taken that practice up as one of their lifetime goals it seems. How boring that must be !

 

I now dread the election season as they are now beginning to air their hate filled attack ads against mostly middle of the road and liberal candidates. It forces one to not watch TV much of the time since the ads are very unsettling with their disturbing and negative messages which are meant to scare unsuspecting potential voters into not voting for such candidates. Definitely one of the downer factors in living in a democracy. People with money are allowed to advertise hate, and it diminishes all who watch or become involved in the process.

 

flow.... :unsure:

 

I must admit that American politics have got pretty scary to those of us viewing them from across the Atlantic Ocean. I am hopeful that there is a more liberal regime next time around!

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You can appreciate the courage of young Huck Finn (and perhaps Mark Twain as well) when they said,

"then I guess I go to hell". Chosing doing the right thing (not turning in the run away slave) over the fear preached by some of these holy rollers.

 

I didn't get the hell and damnation speeches as a child in the Christian Science church, but they had their own form of abuse. The idea I got is if I couldn't get a healing from God from various childhood diseases, there was something wrong with me. It also tended to shrug off my own experiences and insights if they didn't match what the church taught.

 

> must admit that American politics have got pretty scary to those of us viewing them from across the Atlantic Ocean. I am hopeful that there is a more liberal regime next time around!

 

You can say that again. I find it particular scary that there is a growing theocratic trend, with GW Bush espousing a fundamentalist view of government. Now that really scares me.

 

--des

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I don't know where to start. This is my first post here, by the way. Two huge topics in this thread--spiritual abuse at the hands of fundamentalism and the fundy take-over of the US. Okay, that is perhaps somewhat exagerated. I am in Canada but the line that divides us from the Americans is thin and sometimes quite poros (sp? meaning full of pores or holes; things have a habit of moving north).

 

Loveapple, you mentioned physical and sexual abuse going along with spiritual abuse. In my case it was severe emotional and psychological abuse along with spiritual abuse. Religion was used to justify and maintain abuse on many levels throughout my lifetime. I have now removed myself from the situation but at enormous cost. I don't think I can even sort all of what's what.

 

Preaching that the hatred they practice is love. Telling me how much they love me while practicing hate. Scolding me severely for not loving the hatred they practice. Forcing one to choose between lying and being shunned from the community. Family love depending on acceptance by the community. Community acceptance depending on how family shaped me.

 

Being forced by family and community to choose between lying about beliefs and being shunned by both family and community. Questions outside the box about the faith were forbidden. Had to accept things on faith or face condemnation.

 

The Golden Rule. If I went out of my way to be nice and do to others what I would want if I were in their situation, I'd get severely scolded for not treating people decent. When I complained about something that others did to me I was severely scolded for causing the action.

 

This was far more than simply spiritual abuse. Confusion reigned supreme in my whole being. In fact, it is only as I heal and get more distance between me and the things that they did that I can see how thoroughly confused I was. Mixed messages galore. Double standards--one for me and another for everybody else. Mom saying with such deep feeling it seemed sincere that she wanted her children to be able to trust her and to confide in her about their problems. But when I did I was severely scolded for having the problem.

 

A few breakthroughs for me were: 1. when I realized through self-help books that my pain and life troubles were not all my fault, 2. when I found out that I had a right to feel hurt.

 

A good eight years ago I entered university. That's a story all its own. But at the college I attended I experienced for the first time in my life what it is like to be accepted and respected for who I was. I was allowed to share my ideas. I was allowed to ask questions. The prof gave me more floor time than I knew what to do with because I had learned to say whatever I wanted to say with as few words as I possibly could, just to be able to get words in edge-wise. My first prof allowed me to think how I want to say, then he allowed me to say it, then he waited to see if I had more to say. That was a gift in and of itself.

 

Many classmates and profs have over the years thanked me for my active class participation and for asking questions they wanted to know but did not have the courage to ask. The only response I can ever think of is to thank them for appreciating my input and for allowing me to share my ideas and ask my questions. They always think it's the religion. It was more than that. My family has hated me from day 1 but insists to the present day that they love me. I used to believe it was love that motivated people to treat me like they did but I am beginning to call it hate because it hurt so much. Plus, they made me feel guilty (put on guilt trips) for not appreciating their so-called love.

 

Eight years of being treated as a human being with rights has allowed very much healing to take place. More than one person has told me that I am doing more than surviving; I am thriving. And I know they are right. But there is still much pain. I have never really had a chance to explore spiritual abuse. That is why the title of this thread attracted my attention.

Edited by RubySera Martin
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I am so very sorry you have suffered so much, but glad you are finding a way through. Spiritual abuse is a pretty new concept. I had never heard the term until about two years ago and realised that was the name to describe my childhood trauma at the hands of the Pentecostal church I attended, and my paternal grandmother.

 

I wrote this poem which expresses how I felt about the abuse I experienced.

 

 

Abuse Of The Soul

 

A young child too frightened to sleep

Quivers under the bedclothes,

The eerie glow of the night light

Casts demonic shadows in the gloom,

The preachers rant seared into her brain,

“Repent of your sins or face eternal damnation,

Prepare to be cast into the lake of fire!”

God is to be feared and placated,

A celestial bogeyman without mercy,

Watching unmoved as the Souls burn in the inferno.

The adult, damaged by her childhood trauma,

Hates and despises the monster God.

Years pass, she revisits her spirituality

A new understanding of the Deity is perceived,

God is the power source of purest love,

Wishing to befriend and nurture the wounded psyche.

Withholding this basic Christian truth is

Abuse Of the Soul.

 

RJG

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Ruby:

 

So good to have you with us here. You'll find a lot of company here with stories that are variations on yours.

 

In my case my family and religious life was wonderful in a lot of ways. I wasn't abused until I left home and went to university, and then it lasted through that time and throughout my two marriages, although my wives were not really to blame for most of it. It was as if the environment reached out around me and manipulated situations to my disadvantage in ways such that I was made out to be the bad guy. Anyway it really didn't all mostly stop until I moved out west to help my parents through their final years. Things are going along pretty well now.

 

Yes it takes a long time to recover from such spiritual traumas and realize that it really wasn't you, it was the other attacking you psychologically and spiritually.

 

Keep working on your future. From what I've read that you've posted on CR you're doing just fine.

 

Welcome !....flow.... :)

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