Julie Anne's Personal Stories, Patriarchal-Complementarian Movement, Spiritual Abuse

Julie Anne: Uncovering the Abuse I Enabled

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My teenage daughter went to a winter retreat a few weeks ago and this picture was taken from the church van by the youth pastor’s wife.  The snow is pretty evident in the picture, but directly ahead down the road is a valley, but you cannot see the valley because the clouds are covering it.   It is literally a hidden valley.

When I looked at the picture, it reminded me of spiritual abuse.  I am on the road – the journey, blue skies are around me because I am out of the spiritually abusive environment, but if I look into that valley, I don’t know what lies ahead.  The valley beneath the clouds represents perhaps a sense of unresolved confusion or acknowledged pain, or simply an overall lesser intense feeling of general “yuck.”

Today, I’m going to walk down that road and invite you to come along with me – to see what it’s like to process spiritual abuse as I uncovered even more abuse and how my brain sifted through the rubble these past couple of weeks.

I thought I was pretty much over the healing process when I started blogging.   A couple of weeks ago, reading through the Sovereign Grace lawsuit , and in particular, Carla Coe’s story which I discussed here, I was stopped in my tracks thinking about another abuse I had put aside – the spanking of adult children.

 

It was and still is very disturbing.  It’s interesting because early in the blog, in May of 2012, I even discussed the spanking of high school students, but it didn’t click with me as abuse.  What resonated with me then was it was just another “weird creepy church practice.”  The post was about the obsession on modesty and that I noticed so many of our young adults had left the faith, had acted out sexually, and were getting into trouble.  Here is a brief quote regarding their loss of faith:

Was this caused by the rigid rules and legalism? Our adult kids are certainly not rotten.  They only reacted to the very strict/legalistic teachings.  Being caught in sexual sin, sitting through long meetings with the pastor, perhaps multiple meetings, getting spanked by parents (yes, high school students were spanked) and having more meetings with parents, and then hearing weeks-long series on Wednesday nights on the dangers of sexual immorality does not give one hope, but despair.

 Proverbs 23:13-14 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.

But when I read Carla Coe’s story in the lawsuit, it hit me hard as a rock.  This was the environment in which our children were being raised.  This was the environment in which parents were taught that we owned our children until they were married and out of the house – that the government’s laws on the age of adulthood really had no bearing when it came to godly parents raising our children – our first allegiance was to God and His Word, not the laws of the land.  Besides, we were doing our rightful duty as parents by “lovingly disciplining” them.

Here’s part of an e-mail exchange I recently had with a former church member on this topic:

“. . . . . what it’s like to be in a cult where you are condemned for not spanking your older kids. Where it is “for all practical purposes” grilled into you to TAKE control, and MAKE them submit,  regardless of age.  Praise the Lord He cleared us from this cultist’s fog! “  (I’m just realizing now as I’m typing that his words go along with the picture!)

There is a bit of safety remaining high above the clouds, in the blue sky where everything is visible and exposed.  Diving into the clouds of abuse brings up more pain, more opportunity to think, “how did I get here?”  “why did I allow that to happen?”  “is there more hidden that I have not discovered?”  This is the hard work of spiritual abuse, but I think it is necessary or we will be destined to repeat the patterns.  Because of those triggers, I knew I had to go back and dig deeper for my own personal healing (and sanity)  Can you walk a bit further with me?

This blogger doesn’t have it all together.  I am a work in progress.  So, into the uncertain and unchartered clouds I dove, even years after the fact.

I know when we arrived at that church, if I would have been told that spanking of adult children was acceptable, I would have said, “I’m outta here – that’s crazy/abusive stuff.”

So . . . . . it led me to question . . . . . when did this subject get brought up during our two years there?  It was definitely in the first year because Hannah left after the first year and she was spanked.  When it was brought up, how did the shift happen in my mind – where initially I would have rejected it and labeled it as abuse, but later spanking teens/adult children was somehow considered acceptable, permissible, even more appropriate than not spanking adult children?  ACK!!!  Good grief, this is so hard to type.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Because if I allowed it to happen, then that meant I deemed it was acceptable, right?  What that meant was that I condoned ABUSE.  I said it was acceptable, my actions (really non-actions – not stopping it) enabled ABUSE to occur in my home, on my adult child.

Thinking back, in my mind, I always hated it.  But I think I justified the hate because I was physically abused my entire childhood. I squelched my normal emotional response because I didn’t trust it to be valid based on my frame of reference with my childhood abuse.  Also, this seemed different.  This spanking was not done in a rage or in anger.  It was done with a purpose.  When I was abused, it was about rage and anger, it was unpredictable, for no apparent reason.

So, I justified this “discipline” in my mind as “good” – after all, a pastor has our best interest in mind, right?  He wouldn’t lead us astray.  I needed someone to trust.  So many of my father figures had abandoned or abused me, but this man was caring for our souls – he was caring for us as parents and for our children, right???   We were told it was love to discipline our children.  That it was unloving or even hatred against God to NOT discipline them – essentially, we would be enemies of God for not doing the right thing by disciplining (abusing) them in love.  And besides, everyone else was doing it.

Most of the people there I’m sure did not have the abusive background that I had, they were more emotionally stable and rational, and if they believed our pastor to be trustworthy and to show us the biblical way of parenting, and they followed through with his ways of doing things, then my negative emotions were really not valid and I shouldn’t trust them.   I loved the people at church.  They were good parents who loved their children.  That was plain to see.  They were kind and loving and I know they wouldn’t do anything to hurt their children.   They became my barometer for me.  If they were doing it and had no problems with it, then it must be the right way of doing things.   Of course our church would have the best ways of parenting – we did everything better than other churches.  That is how my mind worked.  That is how I came to condone the ABUSE of my daughter.

After you’ve been beneath the clouds and sifted among the rubble for a while, the rubble becomes pretty clear.  What I once called loving discipline, I am now calling out as ABUSE.  We abused our children . . . .  we abused our beautiful and precious children.

40 thoughts on “Julie Anne: Uncovering the Abuse I Enabled”

  1. I think you’ve touched on something very important here. I’ve been reading the conversation on another blog between a current SGM member and those who support the SGM victims. First, I stand firmly on the side of the victims. For too long they’ve had no voice and nobody to speak for them. But, my heart also wrenches when I hear the current member speak. Why is that? I think you’ve helped explain it by highlighting the ministry versus the people. There are many good people at my former church, too- many sincere people who truly love the Lord and love their children. That is the side my former church played up to defend themselves when they were accused of abuse. “These are good, peace-loving people.” And I think the ministry loves it when these people go to bat for them, because most others will recognize just how sincere they are. Often, when the ministers try to defend themselves, people see it for the hogwash that it is. When you are surrounded by people who love the Lord, love their kids, and are kind to you, it literally “fogs” the view of the ministry that is promoting the abuse. Which is why it’s so important for those who have finally recognized the abuse to speak up. If enough of us do, perhaps things will change.

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  2. Julie Anne – I grew up in a church exactly like this. Thankfully, when I was nine years old, my father was excommunicated from the denomination and proceeded down the path of helping reach out to thousands of people who suffered through a “church” experience which was supposed to be “heaven on earth.”

    For many, as you’ve shown, people (especially young people) who experience the horrors of physical and spiritual abuse, they say: “If this is what heaven is all about, you can count me out.”

    Your courage and speaking out will no doubt give a voice and bless the myriads of people who experienced what you did.

    Very grateful for your essential work.

    Respectfully

    Sam Martin

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  3. Dear Julie- I spanked my oldest daughter as a youngster, not because of what I was taught at church because I hadn’t started going to church yet. But, I guess, because I thought it was normal, and I thought I was better than my dad because I didn’t use a belt on a bare back & bottom. I spanked her in anger, and I will regret that I for the rest of my life. She was two years old when I started my journey with our Lord, she is 32 today. What helped me a little back then was being put on an anti-depressant by a psychiatrist and as I begun to unpack my childhood story in therapy I evened out a little so to speak…

    However, after taking them for awhile, one Sunday my pastor went on a rampage on how sinful it was that so many Christians were taking anti-depressants rather than trusting in Christ and the sufficiency of the scriptures. Since I thought he was a god- I struggled in agony-that I was failing our Lord. My Dr. set me straight and I stayed on them.
    At this time many families in my church were getting into growing kids God’s way, and it breaks my heart that I turned a blind eye to the abuse that I watched. My daughter was babysitting for one of these families and she came home traumatized after the 3 year old daughter didn’t want to hold her hand when crossing a dirt road that had no traffic on, the dad was watching out the window and saw what happened, he came flying out of the house, grabbed his daughter pulled her pants down and kept hitting her. My daughter was stunned, he gave her his speal on obedience. This little girl had bruises. This family was the gold standard in our community, O how everyone sang their praises how obedient & polite their children were. I wish wish wish I would have called DHS…
    OK- I just went off on a tangent! All I want to say now is bravo for making it safe for me to share. What a gift you have given- for many- but more-so I would imagine for your adult children…

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  4. Great post, Julie Anne!

    Even in non-religious or “not particularly religious” families, men and women both make an artificial delineation between hitting a adult woman who happens to be the spouse, and hitting an adult woman who happens to be a daughter. There’s absolutely no difference. As you point out, its too easy to think in terms of “punishment” and “discipline” and excuse the behavior. Elsewhere on this blog and in the blogs in the link section, are stories of men who hit or have hit their wives under the same pretense of “punishment and discipline” in some twisted application of their religious beliefs.

    If we scorn Arab culture for the way women and children are treated, we need to hold ourselves to the same or better standard. Not all Muslims, regardless as to which part of the World they live in, practice such degrading treatment of women. It is specifically an Arab cultural practice and religion (Islam) is used to justify it. Don’t get me started on Saudi Arabia. The Haredi, the “Ultra-Orthodox” in Northern Jerusalem, are also known to practice this sort of violence.

    I happen to believe personally that once a girl is past puberty and has reached the age in which she can bear children – HANDS OFF. For all intents and purposes, she is a grown woman, if not emotionally, and for anyone to strike her, regardless of reason, is by definition, assault. The law doesn’t see it that way, unfortunately and a female child who has not reached adulthood (18), is subject to “reasonable physical discipline” in many States in the US. But an adult daughter? The very thought of forcing a woman to submit to such a demeaning punishment makes me physically ill. Its amazing what people will do to women and children in the name of their gods and their religion, including the withholding of medical treatment. You should be commended, Julie Anne, for this post and this call-out.

    In Judaism we teach that a young man should never be struck after the age of 13 as it can cause the child to “sin” by physically retaliating against a parent. I was guilty of that in my teens.

    There’s another aspect that has always concerned me. We knew who in school was getting “the belt” or some other form of corporal punishment. And we knew, because they took it out on other kids once they got to school the next day. A kid may very well accept this form of punishment and justify it because “Mom and/or Dad loves me”, but that sure doesn’t stop a lot of them from taking it out on other kids. I read, years ago, that the kids who went to school with Debby Boone (Pat’s daughter) were often the objects of her temper the day after such discipline took place.

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  5. @Gail – I’m sorry you had to witness such a thing. My wife could tell you stories about how she actually listened to the women in her church growing up, including her own mother, trade “recipes” for hiding bruising, welts, etc., soaking the child in a tub immediately after the whipping, different salves and creams and so forth. You’d be surprised how many parents like these get their children exempted from gym class so no one sees the damage.

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  6. Julie Anne, This is sad and painful to read, yet, I’m sure, much more painful to face and write. I wish I had some great piece of wisdom for you, but I don’t. You are brave to call things what they are. I sometimes wonder that God entrusted parenting to us, because we make mistakes (and worse) and these harm the very children we love. I trust His wisdom though I don’t understand it. As you drive into that valley, He is with you.

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  7. BTDT – It’s a strange place to be, indeed, and oh so humbling. It’s hard to wrap your head around being both a victim and an abuser knowing that you likely have subjected your kids to the very things you hate. It is crazy making. I think this is where we really do need to understand the love and grace of God or how could we go on with this kind of pain?

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  8. Samuel: This part of your comment – For many, as you’ve shown, people (especially young people) who experience the horrors of physical and spiritual abuse, they say: “If this is what heaven is all about, you can count me out.”

    is precisely why I posted my first Google review and then blog. It was because I saw young adults leaving church altogether and wanting to have nothing to do with God anymore. I found it shocking. But now it has been confirmed by far more than these young adults I personally knew. I was flooded with e-mails telling me stories like this when my case went public. It is a common response to abuse, sadly.

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  9. Thank you for sharing here, Gail. I know this is so painful. Feel free to vent any time. I get seriously annoyed about all the trash talk about anti-depressants. I suppose these people find no need to go to the doctor for any physical ailment. Isn’t the brain part of our body? Good grief.

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  10. Julie Anne,

    Thank your own sense of justice and your own intelligence. I don’t think I said anything to you that you weren’t already thinking. Your posts on this blog regarding spousal abuse and your unwavering conviction that protecting abusers at the church level is abhorrant have led me to that conclusion.

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  11. Julie Anne, top marks to you for bringing this subject up. It’s somewhat outside my experience, but I’ll share my little bit. I was in a church years ago where the pastor’s wife taught parents to spank their children, but it never extended to older teens let alone adults, so far as I know.
    I was guilted by her into thinking that I ought to be spanking my daughter when she was seriously disobedient or defiant. I was a single mother, so I didn’t have a man who could administer the spanking. And guess what, I tried to spank her, many times, and every single time I could not deliver a blow that was sharp enough to be effective. I would raise my arm, and try to bring it down with some force, and as I was bringing it down, every fibre of me resisted and by the time it reached my daughter’s (clothed) rear end, it was not very powerful at all. I used to feel really guilty about this – my inability to ‘do it properly’ – and I even had DREAMS about it, over and over again in my dreams my arm would be coming down but the resistance would win over my conscious wish to deliver the blow.

    How sad it all is now I look back. What silly advice that pastor’s wife gave me. And how much it left me in knots for years! 😦

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  12. “First, I stand firmly on the side of the victims. For too long they’ve had no voice and nobody to speak for them.” — Been There Done That

    Didn’t Jesus side with the victims?

    “If we scorn Arab culture for the way women and children are treated, we need to hold ourselves to the same or better standard. Not all Muslims, regardless as to which part of the World they live in, practice such degrading treatment of women. It is specifically an Arab cultural practice and religion (Islam) is used to justify it.” — Interested Party

    Problem is, all that free Saudi oil money bankrolls the “Arabizing” of Islam all over the world. They even call them the “Arabizers”. Islam originated in Arab tribal culture and is optimized for it. And Islam seems to lock in Arab tribal culture as God’s Will for all. (Remember 19th Century Christian missionaries requiring their Third World converts to adhere to all their European cultural norms? James Michener got a lot of mileage out of the culture shock between New England Puritans and Polynesians in his epic novel Hawaii.)

    “Don’t get me started on Saudi Arabia. The Haredi, the “Ultra-Orthodox” in Northern Jerusalem, are also known to practice this sort of violence.” — Interested Party

    Which means it’s a part of Semitic tribal culture in general.

    Jesus came from a Semitic tribal culture (modified by Mesopotamian and Greek influence), but transcended that tribal culture. Mohammed wasn’t able to transcend his tribal culture, and neither are a lot of Christians.

    “Feel free to vent any time. I get seriously annoyed about all the trash talk about anti-depressants.” — Julie Anne

    Easy to denounce anti-depressants as Satanic if you’ve never needed them yourself. (Remember Job’s counselors and their advice?)

    P.S. Where was the pic at the top taken? I would guess somewhere in the Rockies; the mountains don’t look anything like the Sierras, Cascades, or Appalachians.

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  13. HUG – This is on the way to the camp in Antelope, OR. You are going to laugh. My daughter’s retreat was at a former famous cult compound. Do you remember Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and all of that hoopla (http://goo.gl/HED9o)? After the Rajneeshees left, Young Life bought it out and rebuilt a great facility (http://goo.gl/OfaMl). The people putting on the retreat rented the Young Life facility for the weekend. It’s east of the Cascades on the desert side of the state. I think most people think of the PNW as green – – it’s got both.

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  14. Craig – thank you for your words. You always seem to find the right words that minister (pun intended) to my soul. Please do not stop pastoring. People like me need to experience legitimate pastors. I get a lot of e-mails telling me otherwise (about there being decent pastors), but I know you’re the real deal!

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  15. Julie Anne, on the topic of spiritual abuse recovery, you said: [[There is a bit of safety remaining high above the clouds, in the blue sky where everything is visible and exposed. Diving into the clouds of abuse brings up more pain, more opportunity to think, “how did I get here?” “why did I allow that to happen?” “is there more hidden that I have not discovered?” This is the hard work of spiritual abuse, but I think it is necessary or we will be destined to repeat the patterns. Because of those triggers, I knew I had to go back and dig deeper for my own personal healing (and sanity).]]

    You’ve touched here on some deeper realities of the recovery process. At some point, as we “unthaw” from being frozen into a malignant system, we may find all kinds of unexpected questions to address. Some relate to ourselves: What made me susceptible to getting sucked in there? How do I flush that creepy controlling crud out of my faith and practice? Some take us beyond ourselves: Who have I harmed in the course of my being blinded by this toxic system? How can I make things right with them?

    I’ve had several intense experiences of authoritarian leaders in the past 15 years, some who controlled by compliance and others by creating chaos. Either way, their systems gradually became more suffocating — but I did escape them, thank God! However, as time went by, I found that there were a lot of “residuals” left to deal with. And for me, these weren’t just abstract sorts of “recovery issues,” they were personal relationships. As a result of MY getting sucked into these toxic systems, I’d invited friends to get involved, too. They likewise got messed over — and I’d enabled it, though I hadn’t perpetrated it! Also, I’d ended up so in orbit around one malignant minister, that I severely messed up an important relationship with co-worker because I defended the minister.

    So, once I’d seen the light and left these malignant ministers behind, what about these friends? It was incredibly distressing emotionally for me to see the damage that I’d caused indirectly by inviting them to join me in what turned out to be a foolish endeavor. Worse, it took some of them years before they came to similar conclusions and left. So, the fallout of my susceptibility to spiritual abuse took three or four years to make the relationship right. With the co-worker, it actually took about seven years before the friction that had been there fully dissipated and the damage undone. Most of these individuals were very gracious, but it still took time to mend things between us.

    When these situations of victimization by our “friendly fire” come to light, besides any tendency we have to get caught up in guilt, shame, or fear, it might be easy to wonder things like, Will I EVER be over this? But the reality is, this is now our specific journey of sanctification. Either we own it, or it will still own us. It will never be as if this didn’t happen.

    In my case, I got involved in what turned out to be a terrible and toxic church with “leaders” who instilled awful doctrines and practices in me. But all disciples have some kind of past to deal with. If not this, then the reality is, “Same root, different fruit.” We’re all susceptible to something, whether it’s abusive leaders/systems, or other kinds of blind spots, deficits, misbeliefs, doctrinal extremes … And so, we choose: get stuck and do nothing, or orbit around the past such that our activity makes it look like we’re going somewhere (but really, it’s just around in circles), or reconcile as best we can with people we victimized — and keep moving forward.

    Anyway, I commend you for choosing to go back into the fog, Julie Anne. It’s never easy, letting the Holy Spirit take us into and through a deeper level of seeing the truth, find more healing, reconcile more of the damages done to others while in our state of enthrallment to evil … Thanks for continuing to share your journey with us and letting us learn from the insights you’re gleaning.

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  16. @Brad – I’m struck by line from Star Trek – The Next Generation (paraphrasing): “Isn’t that the problem with believing in a Deity? Trying to figure out what He wants you to do?”

    I’m curious – and I haven’t asked this question before: What precisely is so compelling about what these Churches and these Preachers – what is it that they offer that you can get sucked in so easily? It can’t be as easy as desiring salvation – I see nothing in Jesus’ own words or deeds that he desired anyone to be degraded. Sacrificing wealth, violent behavior and self-promotion – yes. Submitting to the will of other MEN – no.

    I suspect that there must be something in your respective backgrounds that make shame, fear, subjecting women to degradation or witnessing that degradation, very familiar and “comfortable” for lack of a better description. Am I close? My Mother tried to keep me and make me live in that state. Given my temperament, I fought back hard and rather became a champion of those who were easily bullied.

    What do you do to go forward? The first step is to do precisely what this blog does – call these churches out. But how do you get the message out to avoid getting sucked in in the first place? What type of thinking does one need to utterly reject from the get-go in order to recognize what these churches represent?

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  17. HUG – The Haredi are throw-backs and unfortunately, subsidized as a micro-culture and still wield power. As converts to Reform Judaism, my wife and I are still considered unacceptable insofar as exercising “right of return” because of it. Contrast that against the fact that a large part of the population consider themselves agnostic and it’ll leave you scratching your head.

    As far as modern Israelis are concerned, it is more accurate to consider them as a European legacy more so than trying to look for Semitic roots. People also tend to forget that Judaism has been infused heavily since the end of the 18th century with European and American converts and a 1/3 of modern Jews descend from them. Jewish ethnicity is dying very rapidly. What anti-semites like to attribute to “Jewish” facial features and such, are actually largely Italian and Greek. But then again, Anti-Semites aren’t known for their intelligence.

    Off-topic – but my wife spent a great deal of time in Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan when she was in the military. She got to know a lot of Muslim locals and found them more tolerant of her Judaism than her own comrades. Many have very western attitudes but don’t speak up and out against oppression.

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  18. @ Interested Party … I don’t think there’s a formula for figuring out what it is that draws people into the orbit of a particular leader/church. But I think we who have sucked into these situations need to consider what background issues, or other characteristics made us a magnet match for their specific kind of “pull.” I’ve gotten pulled in by some leaders who ruled by chaos and others who ruled by outright compliance. I’ve gotten pulled in by some places that were more complementarian and others that absolutely were not. With such different settings that I was susceptible to, there seem to be some complex things going on.

    I’ve observed friends who were very linear thinkers get pulled in precisely because the leader mirrored the way they already think/process information. Other friends who were very non-linear in their learning styles got pulled in because they seemed to think a linear, black-and-white leader would help bring order into their own personal randomness. Sincerity in wanting to follow Jesus, naivity about narcissistic leaders, maybe a bit of laziness in not wanting to think things out for themselves, looking for a substitute father to cover for a physically or emotionally missing dad … I’ve seen all kinds of dynamics at work in why really good people I know seem to get manipulated into participating in malignant ministries.

    Maybe the key thing is we need learn and discern how it happened for us, because that will help us shore up any spiritual gaps and become more mature. That’s an after-the-abuse sort of intervention and recovery. As far as prevention, helping people learn what to watch out for, and trying to intercept people if we see them getting sucked into a place that’s toxic. Discernment just doesn’t always happen before a personal encounter with spiritual abuse …

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  19. @Brad – I have to wonder if staying away from, for lack of a better term, the “Evangelical/Fundamentalist” type churches may not be the key here. I’ve read elsewhere about the “complimentarian” organizations on this blog and others. I read on someone’s blog that the Bible is a “love letter”, not a book of rules and that’s really how we in Reform Judaism look at it. I read these boards by the way, because I greatly appreciate the wisdom of Jesus’ words and I often refer to him as, “Jesus the Sage”. But even the complimentarian churches seem legalistic. If your church insists that somehow, women have a lesser place, even if they cover themselves with, “sure, women are equal provided they submit to the idea that the man is the head of the household” and all that other nonsense – if they cleave to a world view that their particular religious beliefs are superior to other Christian denominations and they follow the Dominionist view that the US should become some sort of Christian Taliban, forcing other Americans to adhere to their morals through legislation, if they rail against women who want equal rights and fair pay and insist they’re “evil” and spend way too much time focusing and trying to regulate their reproductive system instead of focusing on the children already born and alive and living in poverty, if they honestly belief that gay marriage will “destroy” traditional marriage, focusing on a legal point in Leviticus while ignoring the rest of them and totally ignoring Jesus’ own thoughts on divorce, all the while claiming to be “bible-believing” – using science when it suits them and wanting a specifically Christian doctrine taught in our schools (“Intelligent Design is NOT Jewish and it is NOT Muslim and is certainly not acceptable to the non-Abrahamic faiths) – then you are asking to have someone control your thinking and take advantage of you.

    The problem with being part of a “Bible-believing” faith is that all believe something different. There are so many wonderful Christian movements and denominations out there. The money being poured into these places is a travesty.

    Find a Church that focuses on God’s love and finds great value in the Beatitudes instead of being ashamed of them. If your church spends most of their time wanting to beat society over the head with their Bibles for perceived “sin” instead of guiding you on how you can help repair the world (Hebrew, “Tikkun Olam”), that should send up the red flag. We have gay couples in our congregation. We gave up the idea long ago that staying celebate and loveless just to satisfy our own self-righteousness was, compared with murder, rape, theft, the abuse and molestation of women and children – not very high on the list of “sins”. In fact, in Leviticus, its right there with…tattoos.

    Funny…Bryan Fischer of FoF got all hot and bothered yesterday about the Boy Scouts possibly dropping their anti-gay membership stance. “Its the end of them!” I guess he forgot about all the sealed documents and testimony that’s recently come to light alleging decades of pedophile activity. You’ll note that the Catholic Church has been all in a tizzy regarding gay marriage, while doing everything they can to soft-pedal and cover up its pedophile priests. They don’t let women become priests, either – go figure. And boy do people like Fischer *hate* the Girl Scouts!

    It shouldn’t be surprised that men who buy into male domination run churches whose very foundations are built on the notion and its perpetuity. Back in the mid-1960s, at a Passover Sedar in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the Union for Reform Judaism, someone toasted the coming of female Rabbis. One Rabbi stood up in apparent disgust and shouted, “There will be female Rabbis when there’s an orange on the Sedar plate!” In 1972, we ordained our first female Rabbi. Since then, in commemoration, we often put an orange on the Sedar plate at Passover…

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  20. @ Interest Party said: [[@Brad – I have to wonder if staying away from, for lack of a better term, the “Evangelical/Fundamentalist” type churches may not be the key here.]]

    To a certain extent, that works, mostly with the “fundamentalist” part of it. In fundamentalist churches, the thinking is typically very black-and-white, either/or, complementarian, authoritarian.

    But the problem with including the “evangelical” part of that as a general formula is that evangelicalism has undergone radical changes in the last 20 years, especially with the changeover to younger generations in leadership (or wannabee leadership). As with most other organizations, the “postmodern” cultural/paradigm shift is still underway. The breaking apart of the old and the bonding together of the new is still ongoing.

    Evangelicalism has fragmented and is re-forming into about half a dozen “streams” or “movements” within this part of Christianity. So, the term *evangelical* isn’t so useful anymore. The streams I see are:

    * YRR – Young Restless and Reformed (neo-Reformed, what The Wartburg Watch calls “Calvinistas”). Also, reports abound of YRR leaders going into existing churches and non-profits and “converting” it to their P.O.V. So the church name or doctrinal statement may still “sound” evangelical, but subterfuge is going on underneath.

    * emerging – more mainstream evangelical, with a lot of continuity with past evangelicalism, but GenX leaders and more experimentation with organizational strategies and structures. A bit more into “homogenous” culture within a church.

    * missional – far more cross-cultural and intercultural. Similar doctrinal profile to evangelicalism, but different strategy and structure, more neighborhood oriented and an approach of “sojourning” in a host culture instead of attempts to control the culture and might be more prevalent in YRR and emerging (on the more politically conservative spectrum) and Emergent (on the more politically liberal spectrum).

    * Emergent – has been more abstractly/theologically-oriented, more experimental with structures, ends up more on the liberal end of doctrine and political views. Generally connects well with “Progressives.”

    * Progressives – a re-formulation from the theologically liberal wing of Christianity, who now identify a bit more with evangelism and evangelical church strategies and structures.

    So, in the big picture of things, each of these streams is still coming together in a distinct identity, where the first four would likely have found their identity in “conservative”/”evangelical” Christianity before, and the fifth in “liberal” Christianity. Only the first two (plus fundamentalism) are likely to have a complementarian P.O.V. on gender roles, the rest would have more “gender parity” or egalitarianism. (They aren’t quite the same, but I haven’t figure that out yet. Just know that not everyone – especially in the missional movement – who are for men and women working together and having equal value before God and in the home, church, and society would identify themselves as egalitarians.) (Like I said, it’s a messy messy period.)

    For me, the reality check here is, we can end up with a narcissistic-abusive leader in ANY one of these streams, regardless of what the stated doctrinal profile and stance toward culture is. So, the big-picture lesson: We need to investigate, learn, and discern — no matter with the church name, denominational reputation, etc. There is no easy formula for picking a “safe” church …

    Hope that’s of help … if interested in some of the history of this sifting and shifting process in next-generation evangelicalism, check out Steve Rabey’s book. He’s a former Associated Press reporter who tracked the early years of this changeover in person, as did I.

    http://www.amazon.com/Search-Authentic-Faith-Generations-Transforming/dp/1578563194/

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  21. “HUG – This is on the way to the camp in Antelope, OR.” — Julie Anne

    Ah, yes. The historic Oregon ghost town of Rajneeshpuram. A friend of mine lived in Northern California close to the Oregon border when that was going down; he said the Rajneeshies used to send buses as far sough as Redding to prosletyze homeless and the like, bring them back as new Rajneeshies, and register them to vote for the Rajneesh in all the local elections. Then came the little bioterror attack when they infected all those restaurant salad bars with cultured Salmonella a week before the local elections to make sure the Rajneeshie bloc carried the election. The Rajneesh himself (and all his Rolls-Royces) got sent back to his native India where he later died of some STD. Nobody was surprised at that. Groups preaching Total Sexual Freedom are always very popular.

    “The people putting on the retreat rented the Young Life facility for the weekend. It’s east of the Cascades on the desert side of the state. I think most people think of the PNW as green – – it’s got both.” — Julie Anne

    I know. It’s green from the coast to the main mountain ranges, then rainshadow desert inland of that. We’ve got a more exaggerated version of that in Cali. At least east of the Cascades you don’t have to worry about any of the mountains blowing up on top of you — maybe the ashfall from them, but that’s about it.

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  22. HUG – I was a teen when all of this was going down and in my teen’s mind thought these folks were primarily in Oregon. What a surprise it was to see a bunch of them in France when I went on a trip. They were all over the place, certainly with a concentration in Oregon.

    The green side of the state is gorgeous, but I’ve adapted nicely to the desert. I adore the sun. The dismal rain/grey on the west side really got to me after a while.

    Oh, back to the Rajneeshies – My dad went to the Rajneesh auction when they were liquidating everything to recoop $$. He brought home a big ol’ honkin’ orange tent (everything was red/orange/pink in color). I never thought to ask if he sanitized the thing. Blech.

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  23. @Brad – very helpful indeed, good breakdown, thanks.

    What I see in these churches being discussed here is what I see being practiced by the Conservative Right. I do see a “war” on women, and a need to shame them in public for being sexual beings, for wanting to have careers, for wanting control over their own anatomy, all in the name of God and “family”. Its perverse and it parallels what’s happening inside their churches – its just another form of Spiritual Abuse.

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  24. @ Julie Anne said: “BTW, good word: subterfuge. Don’t see people use it very often.”

    People don’t use it very often, they just do it too often.

    @ Interested Party: “What I see in these churches being discussed here is what I see being practiced by the Conservative Right. I do see a “war” on women, and a need to shame them in public for being sexual beings, for wanting to have careers, for wanting control over their own anatomy, all in the name of God and “family”. Its perverse and it parallels what’s happening inside their churches – its just another form of Spiritual Abuse.”

    Whenever I do finally (if ever) get to a larger analysis of those six different streams, there are at least three key indicators/categories in the profiles:
    1. View of salvation.
    2. View of sanctification – goal, discipleship process, how rule-bound versus wisdom-oriented and on what specific issues.
    3. View of stance toward culture – do we isolate from it, conform ourselves to it, put ourselves in control over it, or sojourn within it?

    Specific spiritual abuse issues can arise in any of the three indicator areas, and in any combination.

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  25. Just ran across this quote:

    “You can believe all the right things and still be a jerk. You can believe all the right things and still be miserable, still be in bondage, or still be untransformed. So, the emphasis upon belief is, I think, modern and mistaken. It’s also very divisive – once people start thinking that being a Christian is about believing the right things, then anybody’s list of what the ‘right things’ are becomes a kind of litmus test as to who’s really a good Christian and who’s not. Being a Christian is really about one’s relationship with God. And that relationship with God can go along with many different belief systems.”

    – Marcus Borg in Living the Questions

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  26. thank you all for sharing your stories your encouragement and all the great advice, I have not gotten up the courage to tell my story yet or even deal with it face on yet. but reading all of this helps so much! I hate to call myself a victim but I fear that is what I am, born and raised in a similar church. I was fortunate enough that my parents kicked me out of my house at the age of 12 with guidance from our pastor, I was full of satin and it couldn’t be spanked out of me so I had to go so that I didn’t corrupt my older sister. I feel very blessed that my life took this path and I was no longer apart of that cult. I watched my friends grow up in it and over the years the all left, they all went so far over the deep end in the oppose direction it was so unhealthy. I am by far the most stable of them all and I thank god for that every day, although back to what was said before I have never ventured back to a church in fear that I fall in the same trap my parents did. I miss god in my life and wish that I could raise my family with some spirituality but I fear it more then I want it

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  27. jK – Thanks so much for commenting. It sounds like you’ve had a very difficult past with your family and at church. There are so many just like you who are afraid to go back to church because of the pain. I don’t think there are any easy answers or else there wouldn’t be so many people walking in your shoes. For me, I have to focus on who I am in Christ and focus on what He did for me so that I can have his peace and grace. Keeping it very simple is helpful, too.

    Just a bit ago, I tweeted this verse: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:1) The simplicity of this verse is astounding. I don’t have to have my act together to have this peace. I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to follow anybody’s rules or agendas. It’s just by faith. It is as simple as that. Faith. And then we have the peace that God gives us. The beautiful thing about that is that it, jK, is that it doesn’t say that we must go to church in order to get that peace. I think there is a time where it is appropriate to get grounded and refreshed and work through things. In the meantime, there are sermons you can listen to online which might encourage you. Pastor Ken Garrett is good: http://graceportland.org/audio-sermons/
    I also have enjoyed EChurch services by Pastor Wade Burleson. (http://thewartburgwatch.com/echurchwartburg-2/)

    Keep me posted on how you are doing. I do care.

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  28. @Jk – I can’t imagine parents kicking a 12 year-old to the street. Technically, its illegal but the police usually sympathize with the parents. Children’s Services may help you get your belongings but probably won’t press charges. I suppose foster care is better than starving. That parents get away with kicking their minor children out of the house is just another indication of how sick our society is. And the public at large will buy into the “bad kid” story pretty readily and won’t care what the facts are, so bringing attention to this problem is incredibly difficult. There are many, many kids on the street that fall into crime, prostitution or just plain disappear thanks to parents like yours. I hope you can find peace. How did you survive if I may ask? Where did you live after?

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  29. @Brad, @Interested Party,
    Brad posted:
    “Whenever I do finally (if ever) get to a larger analysis of those six different streams, there are at least three key indicators/categories in the profiles:
    1. View of salvation.
    2. View of sanctification – goal, discipleship process, how rule-bound versus wisdom-oriented and on what specific issues.
    3. View of stance toward culture – do we isolate from it, conform ourselves to it, put ourselves in control over it, or sojourn within it?”

    I believe it is in the #2 realm that confuses tons of people more. That sanctification process is God doing the work, and not man. It is the Holy Spirit that dwells within YOU that does the work in YOU, and not the Holy Spirit that dwells in another person, i.e. the pastor, elder, mother, father, or any other authoritarian person. Submitting to Christ means to submit to freedom, giving all of your worries, concerns, problems, etc., to him, and not anyone else. Submitting to freedom means to RELAX, and stop walking on eggshells. Yes, sanctification is a huge misunderstanding in many people. Some think it means that you have to DO (WORKS) SOMETHING, and another way to see THAT (do, meaning works), is by obeying the law. If that be the case, then salvation (#1) is EARNED as a wage, meaning that God owes you salvation due to what you did. Yes, #1 above is confusing to some, in that people are certainly trying to EARN (as a wage) to God.

    Gift (NO WORK) = Eternal Life
    Wage (work) = Eternal Death. (Wages of sin).

    What is OUR wages of righteousness? Death. We have no righteousness. Jesus is the only one with that. OUR righteousness is like filthy rags.

    How is the wage earned? By attempting to obey laws, regulations, rules, etc., as no one can obey completely. That is what “works” is, based on the book of Romans. We have all broken at least one law, and therefore prove that no one can keep the law.

    Romans 3:21
    But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

    We all want to go to heaven. No doubt. But some want you to work for it, but God gave it as a gift. You don’t earn gifts. They are given for free.

    Bottom line, #2, Sanctification, has many rules, and regulations in some churches that don’t belong there.

    Let go and let God, and get out of the way.

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  30. @chapmaned24, I think you’ve hit on the lynchpin issue, and that’s our view of sanctification, the process of growth. I just updated a post I did on the neo-Reformed movement. The Ideology section especially points at some key aspects that make for a legalistic view of growth. And if we don’t make our way toward change in that, it’s not likely we’ll change our stance on culture. Controlling leaders who dominate our “growth” generally seem to want to do that with culture and politics as well. So, perhaps there’s something in that post that will amplify what you’ve stated here.

    https://futuristguy.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/calvinistas/

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  31. Ed and Brad: I think “works” is the place where so many get stuck and stay stuck in abuse. They feel defeated. If we view God as the angry, unforgiving God and must constantly DO to get unstuck, and this pattern repeats, we can never measure up. We are defeated. There is no use. Why bother? It’s a false message of God. Is it any wonder so many leave church for good?

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  32. @brad/futuristguy, Very good explanation. For those who actually liked George W Bush, as I did, he once said that laws do not change ones heart. I am learning, over the last three years, that Calvinism is a toxic form of Christianity. I am sure that there are many in the Calvinistic “movement (movements stop at some point)” that question their own salvation, meaning, are they really one of the “elect”, or “chosen”, just because they backslid, or whatnot, which is also part of the sanctification process of an already saved person. Sanctification is a personal process which is only between God and the person alone.

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  33. Julie Anne, you are so right. Even when I blog in other religious debates over the internet, many atheists state that “religion” is just a way to “control” the masses. And as much as I hate to agree with them, it is a true statement, on the control issues. Religion is rituals, with all of the do’s and don’ts. I have said, in jest, before, that “religions” such as Catholicism has created many atheists around the world. But I am seeing that in a lot of works based church’s, while at the same time, using the word “grace” in such a manner that is not grace at all.

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  34. Julie Anne, I’m so glad for you that the blinders are coming off. It is painful. I know. I felt sick to my stomach as I read your post. Tears filled my eyes as I remembered my childhood and as I thought of how that abuse trickled right into my home through me. I thank God that he changed my heart and opened my eyes before my children reached puberty. I thank God that my children have forgiven me and mostly forgotten the way I abused them when they were so small. I am sick over the many people I know that emotionally, verbally, and physically abuse their children under the guise of “discipline”. I weep. I believe God weeps. Why the abuse? Why the obsessive need for control and ownership? And all in the name of God? It is sick. It is wrong. We need to keep speaking out. We need to continue to be a voice for the voiceless. God bless.

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