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Posts Tagged ‘abuse’

by Susan Adams
https://blog.gracepodcast.cafe/surveying-the-carnage/
https://gracepodcast.cafe/about-us/

I’ve been thinking a lot about the carnage that has come out of evangelicalism. More specifically, Reformed theology, Calvinism, the homeschooling movement, the purity culture, and complimentarianism.

Who has suffered the most?  I believe without hesitation, that the children raised in these systems have been and continue to be, its greatest casualties.  We continue to receive emails from parents who have been broken by the system and who have grown children who have walked away from the faith and sometimes into atheism or agnosticism. Some of these children cut their parents off for a season.  Some, permanently. It’s painful, but I think necessary for the child to figure out who they are apart from how they were raised.  Some feel as though they have been brain washed their whole lives.  And maybe so.  Did we present one set of beliefs and hold them hostage to those beliefs, living in fear that they would somehow be corrupted by the world or even worse, another church with different theology?

I’m thinking too of the many who homeschooled like we did.  Many believed they were raising up little warriors for God.  Girls were taught that their value before God hinged on their presenting themselves as virgins to a man.  And if they weren’t virgins on their wedding day, they were damaged goods, considered less than.  They were also taught that their entire identity as women was gauged by their constant submission to a man, regardless of how abusive the relationship might become. They were compelled to follow that man, helping him to achieve all of his hopes and dreams while she stayed home and had babies.  I’m not saying that staying home and having babies is bad, I’m thankful I was able to stay home with my children.  But what if I had a choice to pursue my dreams too?

So not only were they held hostage to our theology, but to our worldview and political agendas as well.  We presented a life and a God that fit neatly in a box. Our children lost their identity, if they had ever known it to begin with.  I see one of the biggest results of being raised like this is anxiety and sometimes depression along with it.  They don’t know who they are.  They don’t know what it’s like to be belong to something, only how to fit in so they can be accepted.

So they leave.  Leave the church and sometimes their families.  And many leave their faith and sometimes stop believing there’s a God.

I came from a broken home.  Deserted by my dad.  Raised by an abusive alcoholic.  I was a shattered human when I met Jesus.  So why was I able to have an adult relationship with my parents and care for them when they died?  What’s the difference?  Why are kids who were raised in homes where divorce didn’t happen, where mom stayed home to cook and clean for them and sometimes homeschooled them, walking away from it all?

So I think for me, even though I was abused as a child, often told I was worthless and would amount to nothing, when I met Jesus  He was presented to me as a Savior, not a judge.  Loving, not critical.  And so I experienced real healing and I understood real forgiveness.  I was not a disappointment to God.  So I had someone to go to after my abuse – Jesus. 

I think the difference is their perception of who God is.  From an early age these kids have had it drilled into their heads that God is a legalistic God who is easily offended, usually angry, disappointed, and vindictive.  And our children are taught to conform.  They are taught to drink the Kool-Aid  and if they don’t they are labeled as the rebellious ones.  The outsiders. The outcasts.  That’s a lot for children to grow up under.  That’s a lot of expectations put on the small shoulders of children.  They aren’t encouraged to find out who they are but instead told to be like those we want them to be like.

And let’s not forget that each child in our families is different,  unique in their temperaments and personalities.  That while some kids seemingly make it through and carry on the traditions, their siblings may have been crushed and broken under the weight of it all.  But when we say our children have walked away I believe you can never leave Jesus.  Nothing separates us from him.  He’s with them.  He’s got them.

When this generation of kids hit rock bottom, who do they run too?  The God they’ve been told about isn’t loving.  He’s disappointed in them. So they leave.  Leave it all.  You may be thinking this isn’t true.  This isn’t what was taught!  Until we’re willing to admit that this was the message caught nothing will change.  At some point we need to examine why this is happening in such large numbers.  I think we need to admit our culpability in this.

So what do we do now? How do we handle what’s happened to our children?  We love them.  We support them.  We give them space when they ask.  We respect their boundaries.  We be there for them when they come back.  We don’t expect this to happen fast. It may takes years but we love.  We pray they can see how kind and sweet Jesus is.  We don’t judge.  We don’t try and fix.  We just be there.  Accepting them as they are.  Just like Jesus did with me back when I first met him.  He continues to accept me just as I am.  No matter where they are, we love, we support and we respect their journey.

I regret ever having raised my children in religion.  I wish I would have looked at each one as the unique person they were created to be and encouraged them to live their lives.  I wish I would have never picked up a Christian parenting book or program where the only goal was to tame and train children to live in a box.  A box created by a religion of morality. 

When I was at my darkest  and I thought I had lost everything, a very wise friend said to me – “Just because its like this now, doesn’t mean this is what it will be like five years from now or even a year from now.” She was right.  So I encourage you to rest in the One who loves your children far more than you ever will or could.

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by Jim Gordon

Continuing on the subject of church and abuse, we know many people have been abused and treated wrong within the system. Some more severe that others, but none of it is good.

I think one of the groups that seem to be affected most by this are those who are LGBTQ. I have seen this group of people treated rudely and like second class citizens in the church where they should find love and acceptance more than anywhere else. God said to love our neighbors, he did not say to love only those we agree with.

Even in the churches that are actually accepting, LGBTQ people are often not allowed to participate fully within the organization or hold certain positions.

GodsDoorsAreOpentoAll

Christian people will deny rights and services to LGBTQ people based on their christian beliefs and that even includes fellow christians who are LGBTQ. Even government office holders can refuse certain services and basically get away with it because they say it goes against their christian morals. As as christian I say these things should not be.

Labels are placed on many people, gay/straight, black/white, male/female, christian/atheist, American/foreign. Yet behind those labels are human beings who were created in the image of God. They are loved and accepted by God and we are told as followers of Christ we are to be known for our love for one another also.

I feel for those who are LGBTQ. It hurts to see people who were created and loved by God be rejected and abused by his followers. I think it is time to look past the labels, look past your personal feelings and accept people just the way they are….created and loved by God.

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by Jim Gordon

Have you been hurt by the church? Have you been abused within the church? I know many have and that is terrible, but there are many more who have not. My wife and I are a couple of the many who were never abused or hurt within the church but we still left. There are many of us who have left the system, not due to abuse or hurt but we have come to see the system as flawed. We have come to find a better way to express our love for God and for our fellow mankind. For us it is walking outside the walls of religion yet following the example of Jesus by loving God and loving people, all without an ulterior motive of getting people to church. Do you have a similar story? If so we would be glad to hear about your steps to leaving the system. Feel free to post your comments below.

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by Cindy Felkel, Guest Blogger

A friend sent me a picture (of a little boy praying in front of pictures of missing children) this past Sunday morning. When I saw the picture, I burst into tears.

See, all week, I’ve been processing information I heard at a seminar put on by the Underground of Ct., where they talked about the realities of domestic minor sex trafficking.

In this seminar, they covered statistics about how much it happens in Connecticut. One of the speakers drove home the point that the men who are paying tons of money to abuse youth in our neighborhoods are mostly middle class white married men with good jobs. They are our neighbors and leaders in our communities. They are hiding in plain sight because no one is suspicious of them.

Another speaker at this seminar was a survivor of sex trafficking. She spoke about the importance of being seen. She said that when she was trafficked, she only thought of herself as a body, an object to be used. It was being seen as a whole person of value that led her out of the abuse.

This beautiful young survivor sells t-shirts which say, “You are seen”.

With each t-shirt, she gives people a postcard which says, “Whether you got this t-shirt to remind yourself you are not alone, or to remind others, both are equally important. Darkness thrives in its ability to hide, but you have the ability to acknowledge that it has been seen and the power to not walk away. As a survivor of domestic minor sex trafficking, I wear this shirt in remembrance of one simple healing truth:

If there is only one thing you could offer someone in need, let it be your willingness to stay.

The glaring message that I walked away from this seminar with was the need to really see the people around me.

praying for missing children facebook

I also left with a nagging sense of the reality of how much the two biggest so- called Christian institutions in our country, the Catholic church and the Southern Baptist convention, have perpetuated systems of covering up abuse*.

The very next day, I read this quote from Brené Brown’s book Dare to LeadPerhaps the most devastating sign of a shame infestation is a cover-up. Cover-ups are perpetrated not only by the original actors, but by a culture of complicity and shame… When the culture of a corporation, nonprofit, university, government, CHURCH, sports program, school or family mandates that it is more important to protect the reputation of that system and those in power than it is to protect the human dignity of individuals or communities, you be certain of the following problems:

Shame is systemic
Complicity is part of the culture
Money and power trump ethics
Accountability is dead
Control and fear are management tools
And there’s a trail of devastation and pain”
pg 135

Sadly, this describes much of what has been happening in American church culture a little too well. I know so many of the stories of people who have been hurt. As sickening and devastating as those stories are, I also know that they represent only the tip of the iceberg.

It is no wonder we have a culture of middle-class white men committing unspeakable abuse against our children and supporting a $10.5 billion industry. When our church culture became about building the individual kingdoms of dynamic leaders, the religious culture of America made shame so much the norm that I doubt there is any life in America right not that has not been negatively impacted by it.

And those perpetrators? That’s totally a result of shame and inadequacy in their own lives. No one abuses others without dehumanizing them and without a need to use others to fill voids in their own lives. It’s a shame cycle that is devastating our country.

As I processed all of these things, I felt like I was almost in a state of shock. The reality of what was happening in our country,

Then, on Sunday, when my friend sent me that picture, I was also listening to a sermon by Andy Stanley where he said, “When what’s best for people is no longer what’s most important to you, you are at odds with God.”

As I sat there crying, ridiculously, it all came together for me.

If we don’t care about the healing of the individuals who have been abused by and because of church culture, and the shame culture so prevalent in America, I completely believe that we are at odds with God.

Our young people don’t need us to get better at sharing our theology or making sermons more attractive. They don’t even need us to pass more government programs or less or whatever politics you fool yourself into believing is going to change things. Nothing can bring people out of the darkness except seeing them.

They need to be seen. They need to be cared for.

That is the job of people who are following Jesus. That is what Jesus taught.

Forgive me for all the times I don’t see.

Blessings,

Cindy (rumandcolaforthesoul.com)

*I’m aware that there is abuse happening in other denominations and religions. I have only witnessed the abuse and heard the stories from these two cultures. I grew up going to Southern Baptist churches and I live in a predominately Catholic area. My adamant belief is based on anecdotal evidence and informal research into what others have written. However, I stand firm in that is obvious when leaders cover up abuse and allow victims to be shamed, the influence of the shame culture they model extends far beyond the incidents we hear about in the news. It impacts every person in that church and all the people the religious elite have labeled less important than their vision.

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Many times when I mention that my wife and I have left the organized church, people assume something happened to hurt us or make us mad.

Just to be clear on this subject, neither one of us have ever been abused or hurt by the church. Neither one of us are mad about some event or some person at church.

After nearly sixty years in the organization, and after the last ten of those years feeling that something is not right with the system, we made the decision to leave and follow Christ outside the walls of religion. To be clear, that is our decision and we certainly do not expect everyone to agree and do the same thing. Many people are part of the organized religious system we know as church who truly love God and want to serve Him.

We believe the Church is a community of people and not a building nor a service held one day each week with paid professionals leading the service. We believe the Church is each of us who follow Christ and see him as the head. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit and each of us are equally functioning members making up his body.

We believe forsaking not the assembling of yourselves means we need one another. We live each day having fellowship with those God brings us together with, no matter where it happens. We never truly found real fellowship when we sat in an organized service for an hour looking at the back of the head of the person in front of us. We believe true fellowship is not just sitting together with other people in a room, but it is daily loving, encouraging and praying for one another and meeting the needs of those we are able to help.

Church

The temple in the Old Testament was only a shadow of what was to come in the New Testament. God now lives in us as his temple, and he is our leader rather than another human being we call pastor. There is no hierarchy in the Church today. Each of us are equally important parts of the body and able to teach, encourage, build up and pray for one another. It is truly a priesthood of all believers, not a one man show. Those with specific gifts for helping the Church are not better or more spiritual than the rest. They are brothers and sisters who walk along beside those who need encouragement. They are those who have learned a spiritual lesson and are there to help those who are still learning. They are servants more than they are anything else.

So when I say that we have left the church, it is only the building and organization I am talking about. We left, not because we were mad or hurt but because we believe the religious system most people call church is far from what God is building. He is building a group of people who will daily follow Him outside the walls of religion and organizations of men, loving God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind, loving their neighbor and accepting all they meet along the way.

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