Adult Children Shunned by Homeschool Parents: Selah’s Story

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We recently discussed the challenges that some former homeschool students face when they leave their home.  This story is quite different from the last story, but it, too, deals with painful and strained relationships with fundamental Christian parents who were influenced by the subculture of the Homeschool Movement.

The pseudonym, Selah, was chosen for this personal account:  “a Hebrew musical word that merges the modern concepts of pianissimo and fortissimo.”  For those not familiar with musical terms, pianissimo is a dynamic marking indicating the music should be played very softly,  and fortissimo, very loudly.   Selah continues,  “In Jewish worship it is that moment of silence to mediate on what’s past, but an admonition to prepare to be dynamic.”   I love that description.   It will come more clear why she chose the name when you read her story.

I had the opportunity to talk with Selah and she shared her disturbing story with me.  Selah is 30 years old and left home 7 years ago.  Her parents had dysfunctional backgrounds, but both wanted to get things right in their lives and attempted to do a good job living their faith. Selah’s family was one of the first families to begin homeschooling in their small community. In fact, her family was ostracized for doing so.

Her family went from church to church trying to find the perfect church.  They eventually traveled to all churches within a 30-mile radius of their home, a total of 23 churches in all. They dabbled in the Shepherding Movement, had church in their home for several years, experienced some pretty destructive churches with affairs and sexual abuse occurring by church leaders. R.C. Sproul, Jr., was among her father’s influencers.

Eldest children in homeschool families often get burdened with a lot of childcare responsibilities and Selah’s family was no exception.  Selah is the oldest of six children.  While her parents worked, Selah took care of her younger siblings.  She had an outside job, but took the responsibility of making her siblings breakfast in the morning, went to work, and then came home to make sure they had their lunch, later giving them baths and putting them to bed.  Selah was the one who took most of the responsibility for caring for her two youngest siblings, yet her parents complained that she didn’t do it right.

Through her teens, Selah experienced suicidal thoughts and depression.  At the age of 19, Selah took a full-time job, but wanted to go to college.  Like many homeschool families, her parents embraced the courtship model for Selah and wanted to oversee all aspects of her romantic life.  At the age of 23, Selah’s parents interfered in the relationship with her boyfriend and eventually kicked her out of the home.

Currently, Selah is living away from her parents, but struggles because she wants to have a relationship with them and her younger siblings.  God has provided other people in her life, but the void of her family is ever-present.  This was the comment that Selah posted on the Spiritual Sounding Board Facebook page:

What do you do when the Spiritual Abuse comes from the home? I have left.  I have no contact with them, which is their choice, not mine. And in a recent letter to my boyfriend, my mom (who is at the crux of this) stated that I am a threat to them and has stated to my pastor and other friends that I am mental.

I have been on my own for seven years, hold a good job and regularly attend church. They refuse to go to church stating that the corporate church is apostate. They state that until I am married, they should have the final say in my life.

I must esteem and honor them, and any perceived deviation from that has repeatedly gotten me expelled.

If they were ‘just a church’ or ‘just some people’ I could maybe just let it go. But it’s my mom and dad, and my five siblings.

There is nothing harder than telling the man you want to marry that he can never know his inlaws and that your children will never know their grandparents.

Is there a solution to this? Or will it look like this forever?

This is really heart wrenching.  What adult child deserves to be abandoned by their parents? Why is it that some fundamentalist Christians are willing to completely sever ties to their adult children when they don’t measure up to their Christian standards?  What kind of love is this?

Let me share with you what I found on Wikipedia on shunning with regard to family relationships:

A key detrimental effect of some of the practices associated with shunning relate to their effect on relationships, especially family relationships. At its extremes, the practices may destroy marriages, break up families, and separate children and their parents. The effect of shunning can be very dramatic or even devastating on the shunned, as it can damage or destroy the shunned member’s closest familial, spousal, social, emotional, and economic bonds.

Shunning contains aspects of what is known as relational aggression in psychological literature. When used by church members and member-spouse parents against excommunicant parents it contains elements of what psychologists call parental alienation. Extreme shunning may cause traumas to the shunned (and to their dependents) similar to what is studied in the psychology of torture.

What can we as a church body do to help people like Selah?   Selah reads here.  How can we respond to her?

I cried unto the LORD with my voice,

and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.  Psalm 3:4

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69 comments on “Adult Children Shunned by Homeschool Parents: Selah’s Story

  1. I think we have a case of classical narcissim here. Both parents are using the church to act out their narcissist personality disordered mindset. I would suggest she start by reading through information having to do with the Narcissist Personality Disordered Parent and their children, Adult daughters of Narcissist, then email Henry Cloud and John Townsend–can be found on their website. This will get her started on a healing procees, able her to emotionally leave home, and to develop good boundaries with her parents, while taking care of herself .

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  2. Selah: Your story just makes me cry. I am so sorry that you are and have been going through this. I know of a few of other young women from my old church who are experiencing something very similar. No, this is not Christian love. I am so sorry that your parents are shunning you. Perhaps they would not describe it in that term, but that is what they are doing — and it is not the love of Jesus! If I could wrap my arms around you through the internet, and comfort you, I would! I am a mom about the ages of your parents, most likely. I will pray that God will open their eyes and change their hearts. I have seen God do miracles in people, whom I thought would never change. There is always hope,

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  3. Ohh. Selah, I am so sorry. My prayer for you, should our gentle and loving Father think it appropriate to grant, is that you be introduced to an older, spiritually mature and emotionally healthy couple who can impart to you the love you parents were not and are not able to give. My prayer for you is that our infinitely wise Lord will bring spiritual parents into your life who will be, as they say, Jesus with skin on–A couple who will be able to demonstrate by love in action action, and not just by words, that you are of infinite vale, that you are not alone, that you are accepted and loved, that you are O.K. just as you are, that you are not responsible for your parents or anybody else, that nothing depends upon your performance or earned merit, that there is great purpose in your life, that you are a daughter of the living God, and so much more.

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  4. Selah, I just want to say that you have overcome in spite of your upbringing!! You are a strong, brave and courageous woman to go out on your own and make a life for yourself. It takes mental fortitude to do what you have. I am so encouraged for you. These personality traits will help you achieve whatever you want to do in life. I know it is so painful for you to make the decisions you have made but it’s something you need to do to live a normal, productive life. What you have done by leaving is NOT wrong, it is the natural progression of life. Try to take the pain and hurt you have in your heart and turn it to compassion for other hurting people that God puts in your path. When you do this it will be a salve to your own wounds. I know because I’ve been shunned many times and I know how much it hurts, believe me! I know that the shunning from a family is the ultimate pain, though.

    Remember that God still has a lot of wonderful things for you to look forward to in life, wonderful, exciting things!! Pray for your family and learn from their mistakes.

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  5. I’m so sorry Selah. I wish I could say that people like you and I are the exception rather than the rule, but I’d be lying through my teeth. 😦

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  6. Thank you all for your support and prayers. I’m not completely sure how to respond. Your support and prayers couldn’t come at a better time. It means so much. Thank you.

    I have begun to blog some. It’s mostly just ranting at this point, but still there. https://selah3712.wordpress.com/

    I’m still on this journey of healing. Trying to untell all the lies that I believed about myself. Thank you all so much for your encouragement.

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  7. This appears to be an example of unqualified parents using homeschooling as a tool of cult-like domination and control. How unfortunate that, should the authorities undertake to intervene, there is an organization like HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) to come to such parents’ aid! I am not generally an advocate of government intervention into any aspect of life. Still, I find myself thinking there are likely way too many instances where there is inadequate intervention by child protective services into abusive home schooling situations.

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  8. Gary W. – I was invited to join a group of former homeschool students who are discussing this very thing – – -the fact that there is little protection for children. Homeschool Legal Defense Association touts itself as protecting families. Former HKs can tell you story after story where HSLDA prevented children from getting intervention from the government that would have benefited them. It seems that HSLDA is there to primarily defend PARENTS and their desires, but the children are left by the wayside.

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  9. Selah – Thanks for connecting with us here. I think it’s important for you to see that many of us are simply outraged at the treatment you received. It is WRONG!

    I love that you are starting to blog. I know that blogging has been very beneficial to me, it’s like journaling and it helps me to process what I’ve gone through. Others will definitely connect with your story.

    J.Stahl – -You, too????? Ugh, oh my word. I just want to scream. If you’d be interested in sharing your story, let me know.

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  10. Gary W. the authorities have been alerted to my family’s actions, specifically on how they treat the youngest members of the family. HSLDA defended them and scared off CPS and without some solid proof of the negligence and abuse, no warrant can be obtained. So, everyday I sit and pray that those left will be safe

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  11. Selah, I’m sorry you’re having to go through this kind of ordeal. Shunning from parents is a singularly cruel means of parents exercising the last bit of control they have against their children. Sadly, it’s more common than any of us think, and not limited to the Amish, JW’s, Scientologists, and extreme fundamentalists. Over the years I’ve met far too many kids that were kicked out/shunned by their families for coming out as gay. These people weren’t in any kind of fringe group, but they practiced shunning all the same. It’s not like kicking out a drunk or a drug addict, that just instills guilt that says, “I’ve done something wrong.” Shunning someone just for being themselves brings about the feeling of shame that says, “I am something wrong.” No one should have to feel that.

    I wish you the best, Selah, and I’m glad to see that you at least have some people to stand with you through this. Live well, love deeply, and laugh often. Hopefully your parent’s hearts will soften in time.

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  12. Selah,

    It is all so disheartening. The day will come when you will be able to be there for your siblings, should that be what they wish.

    In the meantime, have you considered looking into the possibility of seeking legal custody of your siblings? I would have to look it up, but in the state where I practice law I believe there are situations where non-parents can obtain legal custody of children based on the children’s best interests. I do not practice domestic relations law, so I could not be much help even if you happen to live in my state. My guess is that it would be a long, long shot. These things cost lots and lots of money. Still, it might be something you might wish to investigate. Perhaps I should emphasize that I do not at all suggest that this is something you have any moral obligation to pursue. Follow your heart, being sure to set aside any sense of false obligation.

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  13. Selah, thanks for sharing your story. My heartfelt desire is for you to be set free from this emotional burden and be filled with grace–and that your siblings will ultimately be too, and your parents will come to see their error.

    You are a victim of “Biblical patriarchy” (R.C. Sproul, Jr and the Christian homeschool movement is into this) and its slightly less sexist cousin, “complementarianism” (readers note, this is SGM’s take). Basically, the belief that women are under male leadership in the family, church, & society (complementarianism is only family & church) and that this is prescribed in the Bible.

    In fact, much, if not all, of the spiritual abuse cases we read about here or other blogs is because of this belief in what some call “Biblicism.” That’s looking at the Bible like a rulebook and teaching that Christians are obligated to obey it to the letter. In your case, they take the partriarchal society of the OT and NT and lay it on you and your siblings. If you don’t conform, then they take passages in the NT and consider you under church discipline and shun you. In their eyes, they are being obedient to God (God’s Word). But in reality, they have made the Bible into an idol and in so doing, have ignored the Bible’s most important teaching–that love of others is the only law, we are not under the Law (Torah, patriarchy, making anything in scripture a narrow law to be obeyed without question), and we live by the Spirit, not following a written code. It’s not the Bible itself, but the way the Bible is viewed as an infallible Lawbook, consistent and applicable to all times and places, that is at fault. (It never claims to be this, by the way).

    Your parents appear to be under this delusion. I have parents, who don’t go as far as shunning, but take a similar tack in rejecting me as a believer because they don’t think I line up with what the Bible teaches on certain things (Mom sent me monthly letters describing my heresy and treating me like a pagan until I told her to stop). You are not alone.

    You say you can’t just ‘let it go’ because they’re your family. Yes, you can’t pretend they don’t exist, but I believe you can ‘let it go’ emotionally. You’re only responsible for yourself, not your parents behavior. I encourage you to mentally give yourself a shower of grace. Do whatever you can to still love your parents, but don’t let guilt impact you because of their shunning or echoes of their claims in the past or because you feel tied and can’t reach out to your siblings. Let that part go and if it tries to rear its ugly head, take a grace shower.

    Hope that helps. Thoughts and prayers of freedom and grace are with you.

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  14. Gary W. I have desired legal custody of the youngest two for many years. But from an HDFS standpoint I don’t think I can convince a judge that I have a strong enough case against them for custody to be awarded to me. My parents look like great parents, in fact we through a few degrees of separation actually knew the judge who finalized my youngest brother’s adoption, and he thought quite highly of my parents (grrrrr).

    And also since the last time I physically saw any of them was 2 1/2 years ago, I’m almost positive that no one will believe I have a legitimate concern because I haven’t seen any abuse or neglect within the last 10 days and have not consistently documented any sightings of abuse, or reported them to CPS on a regular basis.

    I have felt that I have a moral obligation to help them, but I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. Added to that is the legal costs that I can’t possibly begin to afford. And then if I was awarded custody, being able to support this little motly crew on my little paycheck. The obstacles have been insurmountable. So I keep praying, and trusting that if I’m supposed to do something or there is feasible way to do something, that the right doors will open

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  15. Selah, I am a homeschooling mom of three and my heart truly breaks that your parents shunned you. I was not raised by legalist parents, but I surely went to legalistic schools. Even that type of environment had an effect on me; the Lord however, soften me through hardships and my whole desire now is to encourage and uplift those who are suffering through spiritual abuse and other abuses. Christ’s desire for us is to love others, not condemn and abuse. I realize how much I had to give up to the Lord with my own children. The Lord Jesus is so gracious and merciful to us and it is so hard for those who have been raised in these environments of legalism to realize this. I pray that your parents will wake up to His great love and see that is the Holy Spirit that does the changing, not rules and regulations. It is the Holy Spirit that molds us to be more like Jesus; and in no way does He whip us with cords of anger or abuse- NO! He knows how to do this change by His Agape love. I pray that He will provide you with peace and joy- your spirit of love for your parents even when going through this is highly commendable.
    The Lord bless you – 🙂

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  16. Please bear with me as I pontificate and try to wrap my brain around the theme of this post and continued finger pointing at homeschooling. Good blog name… 🙂

    I find myself wanting to defend homeschooling, not necessarily the “patriarchal” groups that homeschool. Selah’s family sounds like they have a LOT wrong with them, and oh, they happened to homeschool too. Selah has a lot to overcome from these issues, it shouldn’t be that way. So, why should her issues be wrapped in the context and supposed blight on homeschooling itself, or a regular problem found within homeschooling families at large (selah). The exhibit seems to convey that the problem is not homeschooling, but like first stated above, a narcissistic set of parents involved in an esoteric movement that took advantage of homeschooling their child(ren).

    Improperly defining the problem can only lead to a improperly applied cure. I read the term, “unqualified parents.” Certainly this was stated within the context of the parent’s qualification to train and teach their children (at home), but again, this is not the act of homeschooling itself becoming the culprit of Selah’s problems. Maybe it’s more that both parents are working? Duel income families is the real problem, no?

    Certainly being homeschooled gave the parents an opportunity to take advantage of free child care, at Selah’s expense. In the secular [sic] community, the Selahs are called, “latch-key children.” Also, in secular [sic], non-religious families with abused children (from public education – should that be noted?), the eldest kid having severe parental instincts is a sign of abuse and neglect, even sexual abuse.

    Sadly, with concern, we find similarly destructive tendencies in children who go to private and public schools. With the logic that is being used above, and seemingly implied by the nature of the topic, we could submit that ALL schooling is the real problem. The cure? “Do not send your kids to any school and don’t educate them at home.” But yet, the narcissistic parents will still find ways to destroy their gifts from the Lord. I do not believe this is a valid argument in support of the anti-homeschool movement (term used loosely since the “homeschool movement” seems to be equally overused in these topics).

    The above is a short attempt to capture my thoughts on this. I’m not trying to defend homeschooling as much as ensure its not being inappropriately criticized. To ensure integrity regarding my input and thought, I want the readers to k now that we do homeschool. We’ve been doing so for 19 years. One child has just graduated with a Masters in Elementary Education. Another is completing a B.S. in Social Services and Human Services. 2 others are entering their senior year of HS, taking classes at the local community college for duel credit. All others (5) will be advancing to the next grade in their Homeschool. We’ve not seen the final fruit, and haven’t noticed any posts on the HA blog, but we think we’ve done well, and are doing well. We are not part of the patriarchal movement, or part of other movements per-sea, and attend a local non-denominational church, where kids are homeschooled, public schooled, and private schooled. I don’t know if we meet the expectation of “qualified parents” some may share here, but our state things we are fine. 🙂

    While our bio may be considered out of the mix, that is, insulated from the real issues of homeschooling, please consider that we’ve done this through a 22 year military career where we’ve moved all around the U.S. and overseas and have met a super diverse group of homeschoolers, from all over and from many persuasions. Some of the groups discussed, we’ve seen folks practicing. Note, that would include families who use Gothard’s concepts to discipline their children, who go to public schools, with very similar negative results.

    I hope this helps with our perspectives and attempt to consider the material on the blog. We have feet of clay, so if I offend or cause contention, please gently bring that to my attention and pray that I’ll receive it warmly, even as the Lord would be pleased to have us do.

    Ric

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  17. Selah,
    Hi. I wish I had time to read all the responses but I don’t. It looks to me like you just got tired of being taken advantage of. I saw that with my oldest sister. She was given responsibility without authority. If you are supporting yourself you are not under your parents authority. not not not You are to honor them but not necessarily to obey them. Honoring them just means not slamming them or treating them disrespectfully which it looks to me like you are treating them with respect. On the other hand they are not respecting you. I know it hurts. I went through something a little similar but not as drastic as what your parents are doing to you.
    Here comes some typical man advice. You can stop here if you want.
    The solution that I’m thinking of is that you can’t change your parents but if you give them space they may see their mistakes and God can change them. You have to do what my wife and I are doing with one of our kids. We want desperately to help him but he has to make his own way. We have to keep our hands off and love him from afar. We affirm him as much as we can but with limits for his own good.
    You may need to set boundaries with your parents. You may have to tell them they can’t visit their grandkids (when they come) if they won’t respect you or your house rules. Once they scrape their jaws off the floor they’ll have to renegotiate their relationship with you. How do they treat their parents? How did their parents treat them while they were going from church to church? Your relationship with your broken parents needs surgery. As hard as it sounds your parents need to know that they need you as much as you need them. Maybe more. They need to know that by not having a relationship with their grandkids they are punishing themselves, not you.
    As an aside, there are millions of parents who would love to have a daughter like you. I’m one.

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  18. Dear Ric
    Thank you for sharing your perspective. In no way do I criminalize homeschooling for the abuse that took place in my parents home. My parents both come from dysfunctional backgrounds. I personally attribute the abuse to their unrealized and unresolved hurts and pasts and their growing fears. Homeschooling in my case, was a vehicle by which the abuse was delivered.

    To throw out homeschooling, to me like throwing the baby out with the bath water. We need these stories of neglect to come out so that the next generation of homeschooling parents can look at them and choose to do something different. One being, stop trying to make perfect people out of people. Two: stop being an island. Three: realize as a homeschooling parent that you have the unique opportunity to teach your children to think and act for themselves, and if it fails or if they stumble, you’re there to support.
    These things did not happen in my home, nor in the homes of other homes that I was acquainted with. Should I homeschool someday, I want to do it with less conservative influence, less agenda, less fear, and more openness.

    I do genuinely hope that my parents will someday realize their need to heal from their pasts and start to open up to their true potential

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  19. selah2013 – thank you for your kind clarification. I really appreciate your perspective and attitude. I also hope that your parents will indeed, get it, some day, if not soon. Your 3 points of future actions for parents are wise; I especially liked number 2, it almost could lead the others and reminds us of the humility we need.

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  20. I appreciate the topic and the discussion here as well as suggestions and modifications given when looking at the benefits and/or the harm of the homeschooling movement. Any tool can be wrong–in the wrong hands.

    Michael Camp, you did a super job of encapsulating the ‘women thing’ in your comments. It was an excellent summary of a flawed belief system that devalues women and makes hyperpatriarchalism patriocentricity as the only way, the way of God, and is therefore, in the minds of those who hold strongly to it: biblical and godly. Although these terms are lengthy, it doesn’t take too much to figure them out. We have seen the high incidences of damaged fruit all over the map. Many people are raising the awareness about this/these flawed systems by getting back to an interpretive method of the Scriptures that honors the Scriptures and God’s desire for men and women today.

    You have also hit on a place where spiritual abuse finds a red carpet welcome. to operate with ‘Yahweh’s blessing’. Combining an OT and NT view without discernment creates a system that is harmful, stifling, and oppressive. Thanks again for stating your observations with clarity.

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  21. I can’t comment intelligently. I just know the pain of rejection spiritually, mentally, socially. It was a church. I have reached out to others, but seems like that just adds to the rejection. I’m not understanding it. But, it is true. It seems to be one rejection after the other. Not a great comment, but is definitely where I am at.

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  22. Gary,

    I loved your comment to Selah. So sweet.

    Selah, I think Gary’s point is a good one. There are plenty of people who would love to extend their arms a little wider for one more to love. When we were in the military, we found “adopted” grandparents for our kids. And they usually adopted us, too.

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  23. TLC – You are so right. The pain of rejection, whether from a parent or someone at church is very real and difficult to go through. My prayers are with you – that God would place people in your life who will not abandon you. One thing for certain – people will fail us, but God never fails. I’m reminded of this song. It’s highly repetitive and as a musician, that kind of thing usually drives me bonkers. But I remember last year when I was counselor at a Christian high school camp (same week I got news that our case as dismissed), this song really, really hit me hard. I needed the repetition that His loves never fails. His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me. Yes, His love – His never ending, unfailing love. Cling to that first, TLC. And please know I’m preaching to the choir here.

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  24. .
    Selah

    I’m so sorry to hear about your being rejected by your parents. Mercy Lord…
    I was rejected by my parents – Those were some very dark days. Lot’s of tears…

    My mother even wrote me OUT of her will with some, to me, hurtful words.
    “To my son Amos I leave absoulutly nothing.”
    And in KJV language – That sucketh. BUT God…

    But God… Don’t ya just love it when in the Bible you read – BUT GOD…

    BUT God shall be with you…
    ye thought evil against me; BUT God meant it unto good…
    BUT God is the strength of my heart…
    BUT God commendeth his love toward us…
    BUT God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise…
    BUT God gave the increase.
    BUT God hath called us to peace.
    BUT God is faithful…
    BUT God hath tempered the body together…
    BUT God, who is rich in mercy…
    BUT God, who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit…

    The dark days had a benifit – caused me to look to, and depend on, – Jesus.

    Selah – May you know the Lord is with you, and in you, each day…
    May you experience His Love, His Joy, His Peace, each day…

    Be Blessed – And continue to be a Blessing…

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  25. .
    Was wondering…

    When we are Born Again? Born of the Spirit?

    Do we now have a New Father? – Who is Spirit? – Who is Love?
    Do we now have a New DNA? – Spirit DNA? – Love DNA?
    Do we now have a New and Better Family heritage?
    A New and Better Inheritance? Eternal Life? Jesus?
    An Inheritance Incorruptible? And undefiled?
    And that fadeth not away?
    A New Family Tree?
    New Roots?

    Mat 23:9
    And call NO man your father upon the earth:
    for “ONE” is your Father, which is in heaven.

    Mark 3:33-35
    … Who is my mother, or my brethren? …
    Behold my mother and my brethren!
    For whosoever shall do the will of God,
    the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

    2 Cor 6:17
    And will be a Father unto you,
    and ye shall be my sons and daughters,
    saith the Lord Almighty.

    Do we now have a New Father? – Who is Spirit? – Who is Love?

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  26. I did listen to that song quite a few times, JA.

    But, I just had salt poured in the wound. I just had a lady give up on me. She agreed to be on my safety contract only 6 months ago. Her words, “I think you’ve not done anything and faith without works is dead”

    I’ve tried a lot of times to go to church. I have made it in the doors here and there. But, sometimes I drive to church with full intentions of attending, I get scared and leave. I don’t think she understands spiritual abuse at all. Or the depths of the functioning of the human brain.

    I pray. I cry out to God. I do my best to listen to praise music and soak. I’ve started to read Isaiah and the psalms. I try my best. Is this not “works”? I have tried and tried and tried. I’ve reached out here and there. I have even gotten on the national suicide chat line and on groundwire.com chat line. I’ve reached out to a few people online that have been very patient with me and just listen and pray. I am seeing a really good Christian counselor. WHAT MORE CAN I DO???

    Maybe I don’t know what “works” looks like. Can anyone tell me what/if I’m doing anything wrong? Doesn’t God love me regardless of all the things I’ve tried? Why would someone throw that scripture in my face when I know I’ve tried. God does perform miracles. But, what if He just leaves it up to time for healing? We have physical ailments that take time to heal. Why is it any different when it’s spiritual or emotional?

    I left my last church because of spiritual abuse. Then, just when you think that you’ve taken some steps with God and a few trusted people. One of them turns around and says, “faith without works is dead”.

    JA, I know this isn’t directly related to your post. But, I’m just taking you up on your offer to post even if it isn’t related. So, I hope you are still okay with that. I just need as much input, advice and help that I can get.

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  27. TLC – peace. the Lord sees and hears. the Lord knows the intents of a persons heart; He knows you. He knows you better than even you do. The Lord sees the end from the beginning. let her go. be at peace. do what you can, pray for strength, and trust Jesus for what you can’t do. healing comes, and ultimate healing comes too. ask for strength, trust in Him, He will uphold you and lift you up (Psalm 145.14), ask Him to and He will do it. peace

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  28. TLC, I am sorry that you’ve been around so many ignorant and cruel people.

    This you must keep in front of you: no matter what people do, God loves every bit of you. He is with you wherever you are. He doesn’t care if you go to church or not. He isn’t interested in works. In fact, he’d rather you not try to make yourself ok for him because you are already ok with him and all that flailing just gets in the way.

    Something that has helped me: I go sit on the park bench in my mind, where God is always waiting for me. I sit down and lean up against him, kind of like a cat who comes winding around one’s legs. I tell him how terrible I feel. Then I just sit there and his love soaks into me. It spreads and spreads, resting me. Sometimes he puts his arm around me. He really does love us just as we are!

    That’s all that’s required of you, that you find a place where you can receive God’s love. Give yourself a couple of years to soak it in, if that’s what you need.

    People like to push others away with their judgment, but they are just afraid of hard roads. They don’t want to recognize that sometimes life is very difficult and so they get angry at the sufferer instead. But that’s just BS, and it is their BS. Don’t accept it. Hand it back to them and go sit next to God.

    And keep in contact with your therapist.

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  29. Hi, Selah. I was also oldest (of 5) in an abusive family and was required to fill a substitute-mother role. Much too young to know how to do it, even though I tried very hard. And no one noticed except to criticize. Ever.

    So when I left home, I carried that “parentified” child with me, always believing that I was responsible to make things work, to fix things that went wrong, always believing that I would fail but muuust keeeeppp trying.

    It takes a while to disengage from illegitimate responsibilities because they become voices in your head. Best not fight them but just let them blahblahblah right out your ear anytime they appear.

    You can’t do anything for your sibs unless they run away. Otherwise, wait for them until they are old enough and then you can be there for them as a SISTER, not that old mother-replacement. You will be comrades-in-arms. This will feel weird at first but it’s important for all of you to learn that you are a sibling and not a mom.

    As to your parents, when/if they stop the shunning, remember that it is not your responsibility to make a good relationship with them. It’s almost certainly not possible, anyway. When I still talked with my parents, they didn’t even see the real me, but had a weird image of me that they plastered onto me. They criticized their weird image of me, but when the real me peeked out from behind, they found me downright despicable. Unfortunately because of our long history together, they knew ways to instantly return me to that abused parentified child. It was really bad for me and it did them no good either.

    So I just stopped with them. It might be healthy if you would decide to stop with yours, too, even while they’re shunning you. You decide. It is wrong for them to try to control you with their shenanigans.

    I feel better not having a relationship with my folks but there remains a parent-sized hole in my heart. It’s just there. At first it felt like a gaping inflamed wound, but now it only aches now/then. I have healthy relationships with other people, but none of them can fill that particular hole. Grieve it! It is a huge loss!

    But it is preferable to have that hole than the constantly destructive degrading relationship that was. And I am loved. So it is ok and it will be ok.

    And go hang by God, as I wrote TLC. You’ll be fine. You have already shown an amazing amount of courage and tenacity. No one knows what a long nasty road it is, except those of us who have walked it. I salute you from across the years and interwebs!

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  30. Patrice, Thank you for sharing those insightful comments from your life experiences. Meeting God at the park bench is a wonderful visual to aid people–whatever their circumstances! Those who have worked through their pain, have grieved their losses, and can share what helped them to work through it are a wonderful resource for others to learn from. I trust that these two individuals plus many others will be encouraged as they read your comments.

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  31. You are a victim of “Biblical patriarchy” (R.C. Sproul, Jr and the Christian homeschool movement is into this) and its slightly less sexist cousin, “complementarianism” (readers note, this is SGM’s take).

    Which are both long fancy words for Male Supremacist Power Trip.

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  32. H.U.G. Exactly!! Also like Michael C.’s term for comp.–“its slightly less sexist cousin”–is an apt description.

    Entrenched belief systems are hard to dismantle.
    When a culture puts greater value on males, as being:
    Central, Superior, and Deserving,
    the converse is that females are of lesser value in that society:
    Peripheral, Inferior, and Servants.

    This does not reflect the Kingdom instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ.

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  33. Selah, it breaks my heart to know you have been abandoned by your parents. I have written on the topic of spiritual abuse, mostly by those within the Church, but I have not written about it from within the home/family. Please let me just say that I am so very sorry. We homeschooled our five over the period of 25 years and the youngest just turned 18. I can’t imagine turning my back on any of our children. Our oldest son has made some decisions that hurt us as parents and disappointed our family, but we love him with all our hearts and we believe our first calling is to love FIRST and deal with conflict or disagreement as a team.

    You deserve love above all, whatever decisions you make for your life. I would love to connect with you further and encourage you if you’d like. Know that you are loved and lifted in prayer, sweet one. I am also praying for the Holy Spirit to do His marvelous work in your parents’ hearts and to bring renewed relationship between you and your family. God bless you, love.

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  34. Welcome, Lisa, and thank you for reaching out to Selah. You sound like a great mom and I suspect we have a good bit in common with homechooling/large family-thang going on 🙂

    I am happy to arrange an e-mail exchange if both parties would like to do so. If, Selah agrees, if there is a different e-mail address you’d like me to use (other than the one used for commenting), please shoot me an e-mail: spiritualSB@ gmail dot com

    Thanks!
    Julie Anne

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  35. This is very sad, indeed, but I hate seeing homeschooling attached as a culprit. Controlling and over bearing parents are at the heart of this, not homeschooling. And dysfunctional families exist everywhere. I have very little to do with my mom and I won’t let my kids really be involved with her. She’s got issues and I’m not going to be an enabler or set my kids up for a false relationship. My mom is a people user and my kids deserve more. These are tough choices we are faced with in life, but loving people doesn’t mean subjecting ourselves to their drama. Selah, don’t own their shame. Leave their self-made burdens with them not you. Learn from it and don’t repeat it. You can still love them and it will still hurt at times, but God will use your pain to strengthen others. They may never change, but it’s completely on them. You are only responsible to God. Focus on Jesus. He’ll lift that burden and give you all the comfort you need.

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  36. mom2giqm, Welcome!

    When I use the term “Homeschool Movement” it is not the same as general “homeschooling.” The Homeschool Movement is a subculture which embraces ideologies of Patriarchy, Full-Quiver, Courtship, Purity/Modesty pledges, etc. Of course not all are abusive, but there tends to be legalistic and black/white thinking in this subculture which, in the hands of legalistic/controlling parents, can be abusive, as in Selah’s case.

    This is a growing trend among that sub-culture group and so it’s important to identify it so people can be aware of the patterns.

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  37. Selah,
    My heart is grieving for you. I homeschool my children however we are nothing like your parents. We do not do courtship style relationship with our kids nor do we approve of recreational dating. As our children grow we let the reigns loosen as they get older and allowing them to make decisions. We are not Partriarchal, courtship, purity/modesty pledges (we do encourage modesty but do allow tank tops, shorts/jeans and tankini suits -no bikinis!!). However we do believe in full quiver. A lot of people mistake that full quiver is a patriarchal movement. Its not. Are there any couples who are childless that can become grandparents for your future children? Any possible mentors in your church? Remember your church is part of your spiritual body. I highly recommend you reach out to a couple esp a woman who is godly and like a Proverbs 31/Titus 2 woman but modern. Your situation give homeschooling a very bad name and shame on your parents for hiding behind the homeschool agenda. I would consider them toxic people and you need to move on. Let them come to you if they want to be part of your life. Your life is your own. Live free under Christ. God is your Heavenly Father! Embrace Him and cry to Him for the comforts of a Father.

    Your story confirms we are doing the right thing not following the typical “movement” within homeschooling in forms of purity movement, partriarchal movement so on. We do believe in teaching purity however not like the purity movement teaches.

    Hugs to you!! I wish I can take you under my wing but probably do not live near you. Will pray for you!!
    Holly

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  38. Dear Holly,

    Thank you so much for your encouragement. It is greatly appreciated. I have found some families in my church and my life who have been wonderful stand-ins.

    I must say that I am struggling to know how exactly to respond to your post though. So if you might allow me to be candid for a moment and understand that I am speaking only from my own pain and not from any perception that I have of you as a parent, as you seem like a wonderful mom. However, everything you have described about your home down to the phrase ‘letting go of the reins’ is exactly things my parents said and did. I was allowed to wear shorts, jeans, tank tops, tank-inis, etc. My parents said they didn’t believe in courtship per se or recreational dating. Instead they believedin ‘accountable relationships’ and ‘family dating’. The problem was it was all about THEM. Never once was it about me, wha I thought or felt or needed. At 23 they hadn’t let out the reins enough for me to breathe because it was their ‘God given right.’ My mom wanted a nice story to tell the world, and I was looking for a fire escape. My mom beat me physically, mentally, spirtually, and emotionally and my dad towed the line, when I asked questions or disagreed. She said she was a great example (still does) of what a homeschool mom is, and that she did right by me and that I will answer to God for my rebellion. She told everyone we had a great relationship but had absolutely no idea that I nearly committed suicide, nearly became a Druid, became an agnostic, or was bulemic all in her house. And then told people when I left that I was possessed by a demon or mental.

    I am sure that you can believe in Quiver-full and homeschooling, Silver ring thing, Christian Patriarchy, courtship, modesty, etc and still have a wonderful family, a great relationship with them, let out the reins or kite strings and have a great conclusion. I struggle to fully accept that as true since I was told that as an unmarried woman I was incapable of making decisions, and made to feel like adulthood and respect would never be achieved until I someday had a baby, which I would be to stupid to bring up without her help. I struggle because she lied and told people I was okay with her total control over my life.

    Please don’t be offended. You sound like a great mom, and I’m sure my personal qualms about all of this are just personal. But one thing I tell all parents, regardless of how good things are, to know their adult children, let them ask questions, object to things and make decisions, even if they are mistakes. Someday, mom and dad won’t be there, and they need to know how to to that on their own, and not be mad that they are living the consequences of actions from decisions made by someone else for them.

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  39. This post must have been spread around again as there have been hundreds of new hits today. A warm welcome to all the new readers. If you are a homeschooling mom, thank you for opening your heart to “listen” to one of the sad stories. We can make a change. That is the ultimate purpose of posting this story. ~Julie Anne

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  40. hi JA, it seems that the “Home Schooling Movement” continues to require definition so folks understand what is meant. Seems a different name would be helpful to title the problems I see described throughout the thread instead of naming the issue something that is merely a part. I’m thinking, “The Patriarchical Movement.” 🙂 It really does seem that most issues are related to that, and, poor parenting. Some who even happen to homeschool. :O

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  41. I’m going to stew on that idea for a while, Ric. But one thing is that a lot of people who are really practicing patriarchy don’t see themselves as such. If you were to tell me that I was into Patriarchy, I would have said no way.

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  42. precisely why it will be helpful to be well defined to include the signs along with their negative impacts. There is even a lot of material in this thread. Please consider, too, saying a sign is homeschooling, may be like saying, “living in a house” is a sign. I think there are some very serious concerns with that movement that potentially can be outlined in a manner for folks involved with it, to get it.

    I remember a magazine publisher who was severely treated by that movement, so when I read here, it reminds me of that circumstance.

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  43. And yet I feel like labeling this situation “Patriarchal Movement” can be misleading in some ways, too. We have been the victims of accusations regarding being “patriarchal” because we have a larger family (five kids), we homeschooled, my husband worked while I was home with the children, we choose natural, non-vaxing healthcare, we had midwives and home-births, and because we adhere to the biblical model of the husband being the spiritual leader of the home/family. That leadership is in beautiful balance in our family, and our children are all grown up now with four of the five married and the fifth in a serious relationship–all very healthy and happy adults. But unfortunately people like to label and then run with that, making assumptions that simply are inaccurate. I think it’s just the peril of labeling in general.

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  44. I used to refer to the ‘homeschooling movement’ as ultra-conservatism because it was a cross between Mennonites and Fundamentalists. But the further I get from it, it is more like ‘Homeschool Religiosity’. The ‘fluff’ makes it a religion, not an academic choice or system as it should be.

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  45. I have never considered homeschooling a religion. In fact, we began homeschooling 25 years ago for purely academic reasons. Our faith and beliefs did play a large part in our continuing to homeschool throughout, but we never felt bound to it as a religious venture.

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  46. I hear you, Lisa. It’s important to note I’m not saying that everyone in the Homeschool Movement is abusive or everyone who is Patriarchal is abusive or everyone who is full-quiver is abusive. Not at all. I have, however, said that the Homeschool Movement is a common denominator in many of the cases, more so than any other pattern I’ve seen with unschoolers, secular homeschoolers, homeschoolers with small familes, etc.

    When you look at the psychology of it, it makes sense – – a high-controling dad/leader uses his power and authority over others inappropriately. Patriarchy is the perfect setup for abuse because women understand they are “beneath” their husband in hierarchy. When their husbands lord over the wives, it is wrong. This transfers down through the family. Think of an oppressed wife and what that does to the family. In a full-quiver family where you find an oppressed wife/mother, the emotional toll is horrific. She may be unable to emotionally/physically care for her large family. The children act out, father responds to the acting out, disciplines harshly, mother cycles further into depression, academics suffer, children feel emotionally/physically abandoned and use unhealthy coping mechanisms. It’s a recipe for failure. Another issue is isolation. Sometimes mom is isolated from other support.

    The Homeschool Movement has created a nostalgic Victorian image of a large and happy family. I’m sure you’ve seen the cover of homeschool magazines with large families in matching clothes.

    The Victorian image is so faulty – – where is the house help that was available in Victorian times? There is none. We are not the same America that we used to be. Back in the day when families were large, extended family often lived close by. When moms had babies, grandmas, aunts, neighbors helped a new mom out. There was much more family/neighborhood support for families and now so many of us don’t even know our neighbors or life far from them. The isolationism can be very scary when a mom is struggling.

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  47. Selah,

    my husband is going through this same thing with his parents. His brother and sister-in-law decided to tell us that they have been shunning us for the past almost-five years because we don’t attend church (we are Christians) and because we occasionally drink alcohol. My husband’s parents never liked me, even when we were just friends and they tried everything they could to break us up. We have now been married four and a half years and have two sons: 3 1/2 years and 16 months. My in-laws have not seen our oldest since he was 17 months old and they have never seen Baby #2.

    I am sorry that you are going through this and I hope that you will be able to mend your relationship(s) with your family members. Please know that we sympathize with you.

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  48. I wasn’t thinking you were lumping them all together. 🙂

    It makes sense that homeschooling would be the education mode of choice for those with control issues of any type, but of course that doesn’t mean all (or even most) who homeschool have control issues. I’ve met many a homeschooling family over the past 25 years, and it’s only been a small handful of families I would say have had troubling issues. The vast majority have been loving, amazing, balanced, healthy people. 🙂

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  49. Lisa said: Our faith and beliefs did play a large part in our continuing to homeschool throughout, but we never felt bound to it as a religious venture.

    You will definitely see that school of thought when you look at the pillars of the Homeschool Movement with John Rushdoony, Michael Farris, Gregg Harris, Mary Pride, etc. And then it continues with other homeschool leaders, Doug Phillips, Kevin Swanson, Doug Wilson. The Reconstructionist theme is very prevalent and actually foundational within the Homeschool Movement. If you look up Rushdoony on my search bar, you can read articles that discuss this philosophy. Rushdoony meant for homeschooling to be primarily religious in nature, for families to have lots and lots of babies to conquer the world with like-minded children generation after generation. One of the biggest proponents of this now is Doug Phillips. Check out this 200-yr plan. You can get a sense of conquer and subdue the world ideologies (Reconstructionism) in this. He is staunchly pro-homeschooling and full-quiver. http://download.visionforum.com/documents/products/43872/Geoffrey_Botkin-How_to_Construct_a_200_Year_Plan.pdf

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  50. I agree with you, Lisa, that most homeschooling families are NOT abusive. Thank God and glory hallelujah!!!!

    You just happened to be at a blog with a primary purpose to discuss disturbing or abusive trends and how to make sense of it all in order to move on to wholeness. So it’s very lopsided here. 🙂

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  51. Ah, I see. Serves me right for not digging a little further on the purpose of the blog. LOL Sorry about that.

    I am grateful to be part of a family and to have been part of a strong network of friends within the homeschooling movement that bears little if any resemblance to the ones described as the problematic in the various movements mentioned. I believe in some of the tenets of several of the “movements” mentioned here but in soundly biblical, healthy, God-honoring ways. For that reason I probably should bow out so I don’t ruffle feathers with my constant reminders that “we aren’t all like that!” *grin* Take care and know that I love and pray for each of you.

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  52. Lisa – That’s great that you and your family have been able to find the best of homeschooling with healthy and wonderful like-minded families. I think when you have something that special (which is what we all had hoped for), it makes it hard to imagine that something so horrific like Selah’s story could even occur.

    Selah’s family seemed to be pretty isolated. If you are in a group of families, you might be able to pick up on subtle problems and can hold one another accountable. In her family, they went from church to church, so it would have been difficult to connect with her family on a more personal level and see the dangerous issues that were going on.

    I still like a lot of what is represented in the Homeschool Movement, just as long as it is not in the hands of a corrupt leader who abuses.

    Feel free to chime in whenever you feel like it. This is a place of support so hopefully Selah and people like her can get back on their feet again, find healthy relationships/churches and get over these difficulties.

    Thanks for your prayers, Lisa.

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  53. Thank you, Julie Anne. I appreciate the welcoming atmosphere. I was just concerned that my presence might be abrasive to those in the healing process who might associate me and my family with abuses even though that has never been part of our family life. I am grateful that you don’t lump us in with the small number of unhealthy people who tend to make entire “movements” look bad. I am honored to pray for all who are here seeking a safe place to share their hurts. We have been victims of spiritual abuse within the Church and it is something we’ve found difficult to completely leave behind. We are deeply grateful to now be a part of a healthy church body where Christ’s true light shines through clearly and brings healing and wholeness to those who call it home. I wish that for everyone who seeks such a spiritual family to love them.

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  54. Lisa: Now that you know what the blog is about, I doubt that you’d be abrasive. You seem like a very loving and gracious person. Thank you for caring and please feel free to hang around. I am sorry to hear that your family has endured spiritual abuse. That can be a difficult journey, but so thankful you have found a good church home. We deal with that subject a lot here. ~ja

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  55. I just learned about a young man from our former church who overdosed and died yesterday. I didn’t know until now that he had left the church about a year ago. This young man was home schooled and raised in a very strict patriarchal community most of his life. Whether he was kicked out or left, he would have been shunned by his parents and siblings that remained in the church.

    I just want to repeat what Julie Anne quoted above: ” Extreme shunning may cause traumas to the shunned (and to their dependents) similar to what is studied in the psychology of torture.” I’m very upset thinking about the emotional trauma this young man was trying to cope with that led to his death.

    Incidentally, this young man is the youngest brother of the minister who “disciplined” us out of that church. I may never stop hoping that something might cause the leadership in that church to question what they’re doing. I’ve read enough stories here and on TWW to make me doubt that will ever happen. But, how many more young lives will be lost because of spiritually abusive teachings? I don’t believe God is involved in teachings that are “similar to what is studied in the psychology of torture.”

    Julie Anne, never stop sounding the alarm. This torture has to be exposed for what it is.

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  56. Pingback: Unredeemed, Selah With Lyrics | music for the soul

  57. Pingback: Crosspost: When Spiritual Abuse Comes From The Home | H . A

  58. I am 25 years old and have been shunned by my parents for the past year. I know the heartache and miss my younger siblings very much. I suggest reading Joseph Prince’s “Destined to Reign”. He is a Christian leader who has pointed me to Jesus and His loving arms. He grew up in a legalistic church as well so I could really relate to him. Remember you will always, always have your Heavenly Father who will love and accept you no matter what because you are His beloved child.

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  59. Julie,
    You are absolutely amazing to be sharing such encouragement while experiencing such pain yourself. I’m glad you found your way here to add your voice to many others.

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  60. I have an extremely similar situation. Have been estranged (shunned) since 16, now almost 32 (16 years). No hope of resolution with my father, his wife and my brother unless I “give my life to Jesus”, in the way that they see fit. It’s been a forever heart break and I’ve built my life without them. Not convinced it even makes sense to have a relationship again. They no longer even know me, nor I them. I’m so sad for anyone who goes through this horrible life experience. Only thing you can do is make your own life one of light and unconditional love, with or without Jesus. Everyone has their own journey. ♡♡♡

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  61. @loveandlight,

    I am so sorry to hear about your being shunned. Heartbreaking these stories. I didn’t know the practice of excommunication and shunning existed, outside of novels like The Scarlet Letter which I read in junior high and horse and buggy sects of Christianity.

    I left a large anonymous church (where I had been invited by a friend) for a smaller church that seemed back to “Biblical basics”, or so they claimed. They had us sign Membership Covenants (folks, don’t let the Scripture verses fool you it is a legal document designed to divest you of your rights and autonomy and to support an authoritarian church structure that can interfere in every aspect of your life and you have no say). They seemed friendlier, at first: we all knew each other by sight and most people by name. Potluck meals after church. “Shepherds”/pastors/elders who claimed to be concerned for our lives.

    Then the concern turned to control, demands for our “obedience” and “submission” and listening to their insufferable advice about things that they didn’t know about and were unqualified to give any insight about. They have zero training. (Example: Having months of meetings with church members to “reconcile” an older woman church member who was causing lots of problems instead of getting the older woman to a doctor to supervise her care for alcoholism. Ultimately, church members and her adult children were harmed by the pastors/elders incompetence. They were out of their league. Another older woman lashed out at others and caused much harm and the pastors/elders kept trying to patch it up between members. She needs to be in professional therapy to deal with her unresolved childhood issues, tremendous anger, and lashing out at others.)

    Then started the excommunications. The pastors/elders excommunicated and ordered to be shunned a godly doctor, married to his wife for 45+ years in a loving marriage, loving father. His crime? He disagreed in private with the pastors/elders. Then another woman, a professional married woman, refused to go to the church any more with her husband because she was disturbed by their practices. She went to another church. She was publicly humiliated and ordered to be shunned before the entire church.

    Then it was my turn. I had opposed the pastors/elders bringing their friend a Megan’s List sex offender to church, giving him church membership, giving him a position of leadership and trust, giving him access to all church activities, and access to children, and not telling all parents and members. I discovered him on Megan’s List while doing a separate legal project.

    The pastors/elders said he was “fine” and “coming off Megan’s List”. His supervising law enforcement agency, the sheriff’s sex offenders’ task force, called my pastors/elders stories “all lies” and “total lies”. The task force contacted the California Attorney General’s Office, which runs my state’s Megan’s List. They confirmed my pastors/elders’ story was “all lies” and “total lies”.

    The pastors/elders demanded to know in the meeting if I had “prayed” for the sex offender. If I had confronted him about his dishonesty. Me: “We are talking about the safety of our church and its members and children. You are digressing.” With reference to his manipulation of my entire Bible study, I said to the pastors/elders,
    “It was your job to protect us from him. It’s not my job to confront a convicted felon!”

    The pastors/elders ordered that I be excommunicated and shunned. They wrapped up the meeting on child safety saying I was destined for Hell. I guess I will see law enforcement there too and the Attorney General’s staff.

    I lost all of my friends of 8+ years. I didn’t get a single Christmas card from any of them. I had poured years of my life in there.

    My sister said she was glad that they had kicked me out, that I might have never left on my own, that she worried that there would come a day when I might never speak to her again because of this church.

    I am glad I am out. Never again.

    Life is sweeter on this side.

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