Loura Lawrence shares her personal story of infant loss and spiritual abuse through Word of Faith occult-like teachings
October is the month designated for pregnancy and infant loss awareness, so this story is timely. Last week, I received a personal story of infant loss and spiritual abuse. Imagine combining the tragic loss of a precious baby in addition to false teaching which makes you doubt your faith, or uses doctrine as a spiritual weapon. Imagine being at such a low place emotionally and spiritually and the church’s false teachings and “support” turned out to be more harmful than helpful. Loura and her husband had that experience. Loura now believes what she experienced with her church “family” was a type of witchcraft.
Loura Lawrence (L. Lawrence) is a regular SSB reader and blogger and I’m very thankful she wanted to share her story with us. ~ja
Spiritual Abuse through Word of Faith Teachings during Tragic Infant Loss
Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 10:40PM
by Loura Lawrence
The Word of Faith/Believing Prayer Movement is one hallmark of Charismatic church teachings. This subject brings a lot of personal emotions to the surface because I lived this worldview for a brief and very painful time. Being young and naïve, and wanting only to follow Jesus, my husband and I put our faith in sincere and well-intentioned spiritual elders, and bought into this worldview hook, line, and sinker at the start of our young marriage, and especially when our first-born was diagnosed with a fatal heart anomaly in utero.
We were promised that “if we had faith”, if we believed hard enough, God would have to heal our baby. We read in proponents’ books, about certain “spiritual laws” that God was bound by (ha!). We were told that only certain people must be told about the baby’s condition; those discerning few who really knew how to pray “correctly” for her, to “pray believing”.
Here is an example (from CBN’s website) on how to pray believing for “your personal” miracle (though they give themselves an out by not guaranteeing your desired outcome): Can I be healed?
To my eternal regret, we hurt and deceived a lot of people by lying about the baby’s condition. See, if you admitted there was a problem, even allowed yourself the tiniest thought there might be a problem, you wouldn’t get your miracle (in New Age circles this idea is called “positive thinking” to an extreme, and obviously unhealthy end).
In my naiveté and desperate hope, I clung to the belief my baby would live even after she lay dead in my husband’s arms. I firmly believed God would bring her back from the dead (and I know how crazy that sounds) and awe all the nay-saying doctors, the unbelievers I knew, and the Christians that didn’t pray for miracles.
It wasn’t until her graveside funeral a week later, when we pulled up to the outdoor awning and I saw her casket, that reality finally hit me. It hit me so hard I refused to get out of the car.
I didn’t want that reality; that was not what I had worked and prayed and vainly hoped and “believed in faith” so hard for. But the death of my Elizabeth Ann nearly nine years ago, has spurred me to look before I leap, and research and study my Bible harder than ever. I can now say unequivocally that the Word of Faith movement doesn’t work, and it is very un-Biblical.
The most hurtful thing after Elizabeth’s death was the lack of apology on the part of those who had pushed their beliefs so hard. Rather than admitting the obvious (this system failed), they pulled away from my husband and I and grew distant and remained quiet. Worst of all, they continue to believe in and promote this garbage. That is when I become very angry.
The same people who convinced me of their beliefs and themselves held my dead baby or spoke at the funeral, continue to refuse to admit their mistake. They seem intent on dragging other people through the hell that I went through.
Christianity or Witchcraft in disguise?
I now believe this movement is merely witchcraft* in disguise. The idea of having to say prayer in a particular (i.e. ritualistic, formulaic, or prescribed) manner is a key occult practice; they call it incantation or spell-casting. The idea that God must abide by/is bound by certain rules He laid out in His creation is blasphemous-we can never be God’s puppeteers. But this is also a key occult practice; trying to bend the natural or supernatural world and its residents to a “knowledgeable” (i.e. magician) human will.
A third underlying idea is that of keeping secrets, or being made to feel elite in the secret mysteries and understandings of God. The word “occult” literally means “hidden”, and there have always been a plethora of secret societies and mystery religions. But Christianity is not one of them. The Bible is a collection of historical accounts on all the ways the God of the Bible has revealed Himself to people (not just the Israelites) throughout the ages. Daniel 2:47 says God is a “revealer of mysteries”. As God He could be mysterious, but He desires to be known by us and has revealed Himself for our benefit (see: How God Reveals Himself).
Other occult aspects that a particular Word of Faith group may or may not be involved in include divination like reading omens or “signs from God”, classically via tea leaves, hair, wood, screen doors, bird migration patterns, bones, entrails, stars, etc. A group may also use protective amulets and talismans including lucky charms, blessed cross necklaces and the like (see: Christian Amulet Gifts & Cross Charm Jewelry).
Some groups or teachers use astrology (reading the stars to determine God’s path for your life, like horoscopes), and a great many employ “special” prayers, blessings, or adjurations (words against demons) to bring health, wealth, children, etc, like the Prayer of Jabez. Certain music/musicians, scents (candles, oils – Abba Anointing Oils, or incense-also known as aromatherapy), gems, or herbs with purported properties, powers, and abilities, are often used for healing or cleansing the spirit, and bringing a participant closer to God.
Many times rituals or formulaic practices for better communion with God, protection, healing, cleansing, etc. are affected. These may include labyrinths, special prayer routines, meditation/contemplative practices, spiritual disciplines, extreme positive thinking, practicing being in God’s presence**, and more.
Those who practice any or all of these things generally have a scripture or three that appear to back their position. Therefore it is vital to not just read a passage in context of its sentence, but in some cases whole sections and even several chapters are needed to understand it in full (this is where many devotional books and Bible studies fail).
After having studied my Bible a bit better, I have come to the realization that God did not fail my family, false prophets did. If you want to get to know God better, simple prayer and Bible reading is the only way to do it. It is not glamorous and will not usually involve an experience. It will not cater to our human nature to act on or do something. And the Bible does not promise health, wealth, protection, or mysteries to unravel. The only way to “spiritually detox” is through repentance, forgiveness, and the grace of the cross.
*It is rather ironic that practitioners of this movement like to define rebellion as synonymous with “witchcraft”, based on the misunderstanding of 1 Sam. 15:23 (here is an example of this misunderstanding turned “ministry”).
**Being “in God’s presence” or inviting the Holy Spirit “to come” is a nice, super-Christian thought. But if we are Christians, the Bible says we have the Holy Spirit (which is God) living in us, Romans 8:11, Acts 2:4, John 3:34, and John 20:22. Therefore, we cannot invite the Holy Spirit to come more, nor can we purposefully cultivate a sense of God’s presence. These are merely emotional or supernatural highs that we can easily become addicted to. Remember that the Bible also describes a deceptive Satan and demons, as well as God and His angels.