The Lingering Pain of Spiritual Abuse

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2…Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?

You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.

The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.  

Ezekiel 34:2-5

I’ve been in a funk for the last few days.  I was thinking it might be because my youngest daughter will soon be headed back to college. We’ve had such a great visit, but was there more to it than that?

I think I narrowed it down to an anniversary date – at this time 7 years ago, around our eldest daughter’s birthday. Hannah was just about to turn 21 years old and told me privately that in a few weeks she would be moving out. I was shocked and devastated. These were not the plans I (we) had envisioned for her.

After a few days of letting that news sink in, on Hannah’s 21st birthday, I took her out to get a coffee and parked the car in the parking lot of the hospital where she was born. I tried to connect with her and tell her I loved her, that 21 years ago, she was born in that building over there and I was the happiest mom in the world to welcome our first beautiful baby into our family – and on top of all that, she was a redhead. I put my order in early and God provided even that detail. I also told her that I was concerned about the path she was choosing by moving out on her own. I hoped she would change her mind and come to her senses.

She didn’t know why she was moving out, but she said she had to. We knew she was friends with a guy at college who was of questionable character and who was causing her to rethink Young Earth Creation. Was he sabotaging her faith? We deemed this guy to be an evil influence in her life and tried to control her contact with him. When she still connected with him at school, she became “rebellious” in our eyes and in our pastor’s eyes, and we judged she was going down the wrong path to spiritual destruction.

We asked our pastor for help in this situation. One day we planned a meeting at church, but it was a surprise meeting for Hannah. We knew she wouldn’t come if we told her about it ahead of time. She was forced into it and was met by our pastor and a number of people who confronted her about the sin in her life. I’m trying to think of what particular sin it was and the only thing I can think of right now was her connection with the guy at college. Can you imagine being forced into a meeting without having a choice and being confronted like that because of communicating with a guy who holds a different belief? Who does that?

Our pastor encouraged us to take away her cell phone (she was paying the contract), not allow her to go to college and keep her at home – isolate her. He wanted us to hold our 21-year old daughter (legal adult) hostage (he didn’t use that word) in our own home. He convinced us that she was in complete rebellion and must be under control. We took away her cell phone. I don’t think we went any further than that. I remember feeling torn inside, but I wasn’t sure why. Our pastor was so convincing that we had to be in control over her and force her to change her ways. My husband complied with our pastor and I supported silently, but was confused.

Hannah didn’t share much. I begged her to stay at home. I tried to figure out what was so wrong with her life at home, but she didn’t have many answers. I think those answers came later for her (and for me).

Hannah did move out on January 1 at the age of 21. I watched strangers, a Mormon lady and her boyfriend, take her belongings in a truck as she left her home and family. Moving out at 21 years old should not have been a big deal, but it was because we were bringing up our children in the Homeschool Movement culture where daughters stay at home until their dad hands them off to their future husbands. So because I was in this cultural mindset, it was devastating to me.

What was so bad at home that my precious daughter would leave the family who loved her and move into the home of a complete stranger she had found on Craigslist – and someone who certainly didn’t share her faith? What could cause my daughter to move 45 minutes away in a strange town, with no transportation, no real job lined up except for nanny jobs? What about school? What about health insurance? How would she get to the grocery store?

The following days and weeks were a daze for me. I was recovering from ACL surgery, I had six children at home to take care of, including a toddler. I couldn’t get the feeling away from me that all of my chicks were not in my nest. Every where I went, I had the constant nagging feeling: one chick was missing and I had to remind myself that this chick didn’t want to be in the nest. She chose to leave her safe nest. That stung.

Each Sunday at church, the pew our family normally filled now had extra room. Each and every Sunday, and actually daily, the tears came. I had never experienced so many tears. Death might have been easier because at least then there would be an answer. We struggled to communicate, and I think we both didn’t understand why she had to go.

I do remember at one point Hannah saying something about church – – that she could not deal with any more pressure of having to attend every church-related activity when she was already going to school full-time and working. Yes, there was that pressure. I understood that. But there was more. I didn’t know what it was just yet, things were so confusing. We heard Bible verses, but why was there such inner conflict and pressure?

It was Hannah’s leaving that caused me to think about that pressure at church. I noticed it when we had to miss a Wednesday evening service because of a school choral concert. I felt guilty about missing the Wednesday evening service. Was it a valid excuse to not attend Wednesday service to have my son sing and me accompany on the piano at a public high school choral concert?  Was this the best use of our time? There was nothing spiritual in those concerts. We were around heathens. Was that wrong to do? Would I feel okay sharing this reason with people at church? Why could I not let go of this guilt? I was feeling guilty being around teenagers and neighbors in my community instead of being at Wednesday night service. Was it wrong to be around people in my community?

Weeks went by. I paid attention to the prayer requests spoken out loud. Every once in a while, someone would pray for Hannah, that she would repent and come back to the Lord. I noticed the pastor who was so big on evangelism didn’t ask us about Hannah. He didn’t offer to go evangelize or meet with her on those evangelism Fridays. Why not? Did she not count? I saw him pursue many other people, but why not one from his own flock? Wasn’t she like a lost sheep? Doesn’t the shepherd go after the lost sheep? Why was he abandoning her?

My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.  

Ezekiel 34:6

So, yes, this time – the few weeks between Hannah’s birthday and New Years are difficult for me because of painful memories. And you’d think that the emotions would just go away by now – after 7 years, but as I type, the tears keep coming because I can quickly come back to that time and those intense feelings. So, I type, I cry, I type and cry. I grieve that we brought her to such a difficult spiritually abusive church. I grieve that she had to leave in order to get some peace and emotional safety for herself.

But I’m also thankful. Because if it hadn’t been for Hannah, I would have continued to be held in bondage spiritually by legalism and by men who assumed a spiritual authority and control over people that God never intended.

If it weren’t for Hannah’s strength in leaving home/church and rattling me to my core, we likely could still be in that hell hole of spiritual destruction. The pain of her leaving caused me to go deep and question the character of God which was being tainted by a man and his crude ideas, perpetuating a church of hate and discord against anyone who didn’t agree with him and his pure doctrine ideologies.

I realize that there will always be spiritual bullies and sometimes seeing them behave like my former pastor is very triggering (last night was one such night on Twitter). But, then I am reminded of how many people left BGBC, never to step into a church again because they were so bullied and that confirms for me that we were not alone. Many have been affected by spiritual bullies who parade around with the title of “pastor” or “street preacher.”

I never knew when I started the first blog that so many people had been spiritually beaten by Chuck O’Neal 10 years before we attended. Strangers came out of the woodworks to share their personal accounts of this man who calls himself a shepherd. Extended family members shared with me how they are not allowed to see their nieces/nephews/grandchildren because Chuck O’Neal told church members to shun those who do not believe like they do – modern-day shunning, in Beaverton, Oregon. Kids are being robbed of their loving extended family because of a self-absorbed man who pressures church members to sever ties with their family.

Hannah had only been in the church for 1 year before the pressure caused her to leave. It took another year for us to leave. It was difficult to put our finger on what exactly was going on and sometimes all Hannah could go on was “something was not right.” The difficulty of spiritually abusive churches is that there is sometimes enough truth that you excuse away parts that don’t quite make sense. It’s easier to brush it aside because you don’t want to think negatively of your church or your church leader. Hannah could no longer brush it aside at one year and neither could I at two years.

Thankfully, during the next year, I was able to carefully observe and really listen to people around me. Some were quietly voicing concerns. I did see character that was completely inappropriate for a church shepherd and elders. I saw legalism, lying, and extra-biblical rules. There was very little of Christ preached. Now my mind was made up. I, too, would leave, with or without my family. Thankfully, my family left, too.

But yea . . . . the emotions of this time of year . . . they still come back.  It’s still painful after 7 years.

photo credit: Night-thing via photopin cc

56 comments on “The Lingering Pain of Spiritual Abuse

  1. Julie Anne, thank you so, so much for sharing your story. It continues to encourage me to know that although there are plenty of people with itching ears who would rather sit under and perpetuate such abuse, there are also plenty of courageous people like you and Hannah and the rest of your family who are willing to stand up and walk out.

    I was part of the Homeschool Movement for a short time, and I was part of a church group that taught wrong and even dangerous teachings, as you know. It takes a great deal of courage to seek the truth, find the truth, and follow the truth. God bless you and your family, and may you have a happy New Year.

    “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

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  2. I was just remembering when you took me to the hospital on my birthday – we went and got steamers at Starbucks beforehand. You’re so right – I didn’t know all the whys, however I did know that that “intervention” was terrible. I knew that it equaled out to brainwashing what Chuck wanted my parents to do to me. I knew that I would never have peace or even the ability to try to figure it out when there was so much of CONs influence over my precious family. Something was just not right. I’m sorry this is such a tough time of year for you, I never wanted it to be. I knew I wanted to have one last Christmas and birthday with my family before I left. But I’m glad that I was somehow the inspiration to start you thinking. There has been many good things that have come out of it too. We have a better relationship than I ever thought we would. I’ve done well, even with the shaky start. That first year was hard, but I’m proud of my life and how it’s ended up. Love you momma!

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  3. Wow! Thank you for sharing so openly and deeply! I’m moved by your honesty – that even after 7 years the scars can still cause pain on occasion. And I’m encouraged that the pain you experienced became a catalyst for you finding freedom. Thank God for that!

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  4. Having a bit of trouble trying to see the keyboard through my tears. Thank God for you Hannah! I am so glad you are proud of yourself. Your mom’s blog has been a safe & healing place for myself & countless others.

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  5. Julie Anne, Oh my! I didn’t realize you were steeped so much into that world! What a controlling, manipulative environment. Isn’t it amazing to look back on it with fresh eyes and see how warped it was? I hope your daughter understands now how much blinded you were. I can think of many ways I was blinded and finally saw the light.

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  6. Wow….just wow…what a journey you have been on…did not know…what an amazing comment/encouragement from your daughter…thank you so much for sharing this story, for your blog, and for your courage…wow…may The Lord continue to restore the years the locusts ate away…wow…

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  7. This makes me so sad, JA, but also happy. Happy because…thank God for Hannah!

    “I noticed the pastor who was so big on evangelism didn’t ask us about Hannah. He didn’t offer to go evangelize or meet with her on those evangelism Fridays. Why not? Did she not count? I saw him pursue many other people, but why not one from his own flock? Wasn’t she like a lost sheep? Doesn’t the shepherd go after the lost sheep? Why was he abandoning her?”

    I also thank God that CON did not go after her to attempt any sort of care for her. If he had, you might have stayed even longer than you did- thinking CON cared about your daughter. His action toward Hannah, or lack of action, gave you a clue about his love of doctrine (obeying him and his rules) over love for your hurting daughter.

    I just love how some of these self-proclaimed street preachers and pastors (with current licenses/credentials and without) decide who is worthy of evangelizing. Thinking of a certain “Uncle Tony” friend of CON’s who is willing and anxious to cross ocean and sea to evangelize- yet hasn’t the time to make the mere 6-7 hour drive north in his own state of CA to save Bethel and Bill Johnson in Redding (even though their endangered souls destined for hell are frequently written about by him).

    And…like…he could probably cover the cost of this little jaunt to northern CA on his own without even begging on the internet for living expenses (or payroll).

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  8. “But I’m also thankful. Because if it hadn’t been for Hannah, I would have continued to be held in bondage spiritually by legalism and by men who assumed a spiritual authority and control over people that God never intended.”

    Praise God for your precious BRAVE young woman.

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  9. Hannah (aka Phoenixtatgirl) said:

    That first year was hard, but I’m proud of my life and how it’s ended up. Love you momma!

    Hannah, I’m so proud of you and proud of us and the hard work we did to make it on the other side.

    I know that it can take years in the recovery process. Normally, I’m fine. I’ve heard some really bad stories lately and that might have helped trigger things, but regardless, I know that when I’m in a funk, I need to deal with it and typing and crying is therapeutic for me. I love you!

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  10. I hope your daughter understands now how much blinded you were.

    I am very fortunate that Hannah did understand this part well. Sadly, I’ve read of other young adults who can’t bring themselves to try to understand the whys and instead of dealing with the painful unknown have severed their relationship with their parents (and sometimes it goes the other way, too). Either one of us could have made a disastrous choice to sever our relationship. Our love was strong. We didn’t give up. I’m so grateful.

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  11. Permit me to set forth Psalm 59 (KJV) as it must surely pertain to every so called pastor who oppresses, and would destroy and devour, the very souls of those precious lambs for whom our Lord gave up His life:

    1 Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God: defend me from them that rise up against me.

    2 Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody men.

    3 For, lo, they lie in wait for my soul: the mighty are gathered against me; not for my transgression, nor for my sin, O Lord.

    4 They run and prepare themselves without my fault: awake to help me, and behold.

    5 Thou therefore, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, awake to visit all the heathen: be not merciful to any wicked transgressors. Selah.

    6 They return at evening: they make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city.

    7 Behold, they belch out with their mouth: swords are in their lips: for who, say they, doth hear?

    8 But thou, O Lord, shalt laugh at them; thou shalt have all the heathen in derision.

    9 Because of his strength will I wait upon thee: for God is my defence.

    10 The God of my mercy shall prevent me: God shall let me see my desire upon mine enemies.

    11 Slay them not, lest my people forget: scatter them by thy power; and bring them down, O Lord our shield.

    12 For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips let them even be taken in their pride: and for cursing and lying which they speak.

    13 Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be: and let them know that God ruleth in Jacob unto the ends of the earth. Selah.

    14 And at evening let them return; and let them make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city.

    15 Let them wander up and down for meat, and grudge if they be not satisfied.

    16 But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble.

    17 Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing: for God is my defence, and the God of my mercy.

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  13. Julie Anne – thank you so much for sharing your painful experience. So many of us that read your blog can relate to different parts of your experience, I know I can. Again, thanks for sharing….

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  14. Hi Julie Anne and daughter Hannah,

    Thank you for sharing another part of your family’s story: leaving spiritual abuse, what it cost each of you, and the changes and healing that have taken place in your family.

    Thanks too, Julie Anne, for starting this blog, putting up with getting sued by your pastor (and winning), and for helping so many other people.

    My identical twin sister was thrilled that I was kicked out, ordered to be shunned, and excommunicated from my very conservative Bible-believing church here in Silicon Valley by the pastors/elders for my refusal to go along with their sick and twisted beliefs when it came to protecting their friend, a convicted sex offender on Megan’s List. (She couldn’t stand my church and my pastors/elders.)

    The pastors/elders said the sex offender was coming off Megan’s List; the Sheriff’s Department sex offenders task force and the California Attorney General’s Office (contacted by the alarmed Sheriff’s over the plethora of lies my four pastors/elders told me) confirmed it was “all lies”. The pastors/elders said it was ok for a church member father to permit the sex offender to touch his children and that his authority was binding on his family, that his wife had no say, and that his wife was “to obey” him and “to submit” to him. Uhh, no. Fathers and mothers are commanded by God and by law to protect their children. It’s a crime to NOT protect your children. If a father doesn’t have the brains to do it, then the mother is required to do it. If not, face getting arrested and prosecuted for misdemeanor or felony child abuse/endangerment/neglect and get up to 1-year in jail or 6-years in state prison.

    Like Hannah, my pastors/elders had incredibly abusive meetings with me. I was thinking today about what total failures my pastors/elders were at Biblical counseling. Their claims are akin to me saying that if I owned a pair of ballet shoes that I’d be a prima ballerina.

    (They closed the meeting with me, about child safety for our children, by reading me a Scripture that I wasn’t saved, was deceived, was destined for Hell and should be shunned. (They invited the sex offender to volunteer with our children at our church’s week-long basketball camp for children in the summer, and parents who entrusted their children to us were never told. Both believers and unbelievers.)

    After my shunning and excommunication, I didn’t receive a single Christmas card or photo or newsletter from anyone in my church family. Not a phone call.

    Do you know who contacted me to wish me a Merry Christmas? My gay hair dresser! A man who isn’t a Christian and has never stepped in church…did the right thing; and not a single Bible thumper at my church did the right thing.

    So…what will I do. I have my good days and bad days.

    *I think I will take up the fiddle, I’ve always wanted to learn Bluegrass.
    *I take care of my skin and put almond oil on my legs.
    *I have been getting more exercise. I am going to join a free walking/running group.
    *I am going to do something with my hands. Make some collages on poster board. Maybe take up pottery or something. Maybe paper mache. Something messy and wet and creative.
    *I am going to sailing on a tall ship in San Diego. I’ve always wanted to do that.
    *I am not going to give to a single charity during this period (and I haven’t).
    *I’m going to…expand. Conquer fears. Do stuff that I’ve always wanted to do.
    *Make cookies I’ve always wanted to make (but was too busy cooking for church).
    * I am going to buy more clothes and other things for myself (because I always gave my money to church and Christian charities and put myself…well…last). I didn’t buy food I wanted to (like smoked salmon) because it was too lavish and the church needed my money. Now, I have been buying it every week!
    *I am taking all of my super conservative Christian books and tossing them in the recycling container. I refuse to give them to Goodwill or away to anybody else.
    I will just stick with my Bible and a few other resources…and rid myself of the rest.
    *I’m going to go stay at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel…because I’ve always wanted to and I gave money to the church.

    I am going to love people that my church didn’t want me to love so much anymore. I used to love them before this church, I still loved them (I tried hard to make it go away but the flames of love wouldn’t be extinguished).

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  15. Julie Anne believe that you were called to that Church for a time such as this. At the beginning of my journey I was given the Bible verse Hebrews 4:13 ‘Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account’. God sees the end from the beginning and you needed to be in that Church so you could expose what was going on but also from your experience comes a heart that can understand others people’s pain and grief. Hannah’s moving out was God’s way of saying ‘now is your time Julie Anne to use the gifts I have given you’. Keep on keeping on Julie Anne remember God knows all our inner pain. Psalm 56:8 says: ‘You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book’.

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  16. Regardless of what others believe about spiritual gifts/prophets/etc…I believe that God has raised up watchmen/women in these last days. JA, I believe you are one of them. Hugs and a blessed new year to you and your entire family.

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  17. Julie Anne – I can so identify as my daughter of 20 just moved out a month ago with no clue except two weeks before she did it. She went with two strangers I did not even know to go WOOLFING (which is working at organic farms scattered across the country and even over seas). She has been gone a month now; slept in cars, met with different people in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas; car broke down in a snow storm and laid up in a small Texas town til she can leave again. Talk about stress not knowing if my daughter is safe or not, BUT talk about guts- and she is also a Hanna. Must be something with that name- yes, GRACE.
    My daughter Hanna also could not understand church and the hypocrisy- she tuned out at about the same time we did, but the damage was done. She struggles with her faith right now and Jesus is helping us to just let her go. Hard, hard, hard.
    If I was in a church setting right now I would have had more of a difficult time because I would have compared her to others that “supposedly” had their lives put together; I would have compared my husband and I to other homeschool families and church families. Guilt can be a terrible enemy and the devil loves to use it especially in religious settings.
    Thankfully both sets of grandparents are suppportive of my daughter and pray for her and love her.
    My prayers for you JA – when we deal with our children we are reminded that they are really His.

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  18. Michaela, I read your comments on WW and I was so hurt inside for you. I pray for you that you have comfort and peace. You just go out and start living girl! I have done the same things as you – I cannot handle these books and sermons anymore. I have had people who feel I should come back to the church but I can’t. Living is more exciting now and meeting different people that I would not have hung around with before shows me how much I have missed just living. Go on those trips, take up hobbies, meet new people- you are a child of Gods and loved! God grows from the inside out, not like the world which wants us to show the outside first. Jesus stated to the Pharisees that their cups were white on the outside but inside they were filthy.
    Jesus invites us to drink from living water so I would think that our cups should be clean also. Jesus is concerned with the heart and the fruits of the Spirit, not the performances and showmanship of the church today. I only hope and pray good and wonderful things for you!

    Hannah, I also pray for wonderful and good things for you also. You were brave to get up and walk out. The Holy Spirit knows us and will work on us in His grace and love- we just have to keep on trusting Him to do so.

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  19. Julie Anne

    I’m so thankful to have met you and learn from you.
    Your story brings ====Tears====

    And then – Tears Of Joy

    Thank you Hannah…

    “and a little child shall lead them.”
    “The elder shall serve the younger.”

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  20. @trust4himonly,

    Thank you for your encouraging words! I needed to hear them! I so appreciate this blog and the folks here and those over at Wartburg Watch. Yes, I am going to start living more and doing so expansively.

    I miss some folks at my church who have been ordered to shun me, but I don’t miss many of them (whom I found too hateful for words and just small-minded and lacking in love).

    Happy New Year!

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  21. Hannah, you really rock! Many young women would have totally disengaged from their family permanently after such an experience. Also many mothers are blinded to their daughter’s need for independence. You are fortunate to have a mother who was able to “get it” and stay in communication. I wish you and your mom would write a book about the process of of you breaking away and then coming together in a new way. Happy Birthday!

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  22. I am a daughter–and I struggle every day to keep a good relationship with my family while they are still in fundamentalism. They left the cult we grew up in, but the mindset runs strong and it’s hard to hang out with your siblings when they tell you you’re going to hell because you aren’t going to church every Sunday. My mom and I have our rough patches, even without me telling her I’m gay…but somehow we’ve managed to hold things together, even after interventions, isolations, and other tactics she and my dad used to try to help me. I actually kinda envy your relationship, but it also makes me glad that I am hanging in there and gives me hope that maybe some day they will accept me for who I am. Even if not, I don’t think I’ll regret keeping those ties.

    I’m sorry this time is hard, but so glad your story has a happier ending!

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  23. Happy New Year, everyone. May this year bring much healing and growth to us all. Would you please pray for my 13 year old granddaughter tonight? She’s a small, thin girl who is sick more often than not. Right now, she has a bad case of the flu, and is running a fever of over 103.

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  24. @Tremblingcourage – I wish I could give you a hug. I know how hard it is. My father and I don’t have a good relationship and I have him blocked from all my social networking because of the hurt he still causes. But like you, I’ve found value in trying to keep those lines of communication open. I don’t know if my father will adjust his views like my mom has, but I can still treasure the relationship my mom and I have. Keep those ties open as long as you can, but don’t be afraid to close them (temporarily or permanently) if you need to. The important thing is YOU and taking care of yourself. 🙂 You’re the bigger and better person now. You are strong, and you’re fighting for it. Keep it up!

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  25. @tremblingcourage,
    I wish I could give you a hug! I am sorry for the way you’ve been treated.
    My former church members were hateful toward so many people, gays included, that I just couldn’t stand it! Already lacking in love, and full of hypocrisy, they buffed and shined their legalism and hate with talk radio. I found so many of those people to be insufferable.
    After I was recently excommunicated and shunned, I didn’t get a single Christmas card from anyone in my church family (and I’d known them and poured myself into their lives for 8-years). My gay hair dresser, who doesn’t go to church, called me and wished me a “Merry Christmas.”

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  26. tremblingcourage,

    Thanks for commenting – wow, I was really touched. I’m sorry to hear of the challenges you are facing with your family. Stories like yours are so hard for me to hear because it hits so close to home and what could have been. You’re right – I do share our story hoping that it will encourage people to keep working on their relationships. But I also share it because it’s important to know that it wasn’t an easy road and it took a lot of work on both sides. But it is so worth it. Don’t give up, tremblingcourage. I like the “courage” in your user ID. 🙂

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  27. Hannah touched on the reality of our situation – that sometimes one parent can mend the broken fences with an adult child and the other parent is unable to for some reason or another. This is the sad story of spiritual abuse and the recovery process. It doesn’t always happen at the same time for all family members. Spiritual abuse sucks. There, I said it.

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  28. JA and Hannah, You both have beautiful hearts and wisdom. JA, this is exactly what we want for our children. We raise them to be strong and able to face the world head on. Good Job, Mom.
    WFTT2, I will pray for healing for your grand daughter.
    Michaela, to my knowledge people who are on a sex offender’s list don’t come off of it unless they are dead or a rare occasion that DNA is found later to find they were not guilty and I am sure the odds of that are next to nil. You did the right thing by standing against this situation. We live in the end days. What’s right will be seen wrong and what’s wrong will be seen right. It’s amazing to me how often these things happen. You were right to protect all children in the church. If this man’s crime was against children, how is he being allowed to be within a certain distance of children much less be allowed to work with them in close proximity? I think the verse(s) they read to you, they should take a very close look at while looking in a mirror.

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  29. @Brenda R.:

    You are correct that Megan’s List is a life-time registry. There are some cases where sex offenders can appeal to be removed from it. If granted, it takes 30-days.

    The sex offender at my former church is on Megan’s List because he was convicted and imprisoned for having/selling/trading child porn. His specific conviction wasn’t for child sexual abuse. My concern, however, is that:
    a) he’s a convicted felon;
    b) he’s still on Megan’s List;
    c) he obviously has a sexual interest in children (and chose child porn which is illegal and a felony over adult porn, which however distasteful to people here is legal); and d) the research studies done by the F.B.I., District Attorneys’ Association, and The Mayo Clinic show that the majority of inmates who were in prison for child porn admitted to having gotten away with ‘on contact sexual abuse of children.’

    He is still the same person who committed crimes. Yes, we are to evangelize people who have committed grave sins. But we aren’t to throw caution to the win and risk children or other people.

    Plus, I have found this sex offender highly manipulative. He and I were in the same Bible study. No one else knew he was a sex offender on Megan’s List. He whipped the entire room of people into a frenzy about ‘all of the bad people in prisons’. The entire roomful of people agreed with him. He finished his story with a smug smile on his face. He had “gotten” them. He had been successful at manipulating them. He never revealed he was a felon, had served prison time, and was a sex offender on Megan’s List.

    I went home and wrote the California Attorney General what he had done, under his picture at Megan’s List. That report was then sent to his supervising law enforcement agency, The Sheriff’s sex offenders’ task force.

    There is an epidemic of child sexual abuse in evangelical churches, and we know that from the reports released by churches’ insurance companies, like Church Mutual.

    Like

  30. Julie Anne, Hannah, Michaela–thanks for your kind words. Sometimes I need a lifeline. 🙂 I’m in college full time but my school is stupid and closes dorms for three weeks over Christmas so I’m staying with my family for a bit. Usually I stay with friends, but this year it’s how it worked out. As long as I outwardly agree with the church/family line I’m ok, and I’m willing to do that for a few weeks out of the year in order to keep in touch with my siblings. It’s crazy making, though, and some days I just start to doubt everything about myself and my family, and wonder who is really right. Even though I know our church was abusive, and their is still somewhat that way, I can get so confused when I’m back steeped in it for long periods of time. I’ll be ready to go back to school on Saturday, for sure!

    My hope is that if/when my younger siblings (I’m the oldest of eight) choose to leave fundamentalism they will know that I am there for them. They were not as “rebellious” as I was, and therefore have managed to avoid the behavior-changing tactics that drove me out. As they get older, though, some of them are starting to question things, and I hope I’m able to be a resource for them. Even if they currently feel it’s their duty to warn me of the evil of my ways…they’re trapped, have been from birth, and I know first hand that leaving is hard.

    Happy 2015! Keep doing what you’re doing–I need reminders that I’m not crazy or alone in leaving, questioning, changing, and questioning some more. It’s less lonely when there’s a community out there, and I’m grateful I found it!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. @trembling,

    Oh, I am happy that you can see your siblings but sad that you have to be around that level of spiritual toxicity. Yes, we all need a lifeline to get out of the toxic brew and to keep our wits about us.

    Just take care of yourself and count down the days until you can go back to college.
    I hope you can do some fun stuff while you are and tune out the bad stuff.

    There’s a free book about spiritual abuse in electronic form by Ronald Enroth called
    Churches That Abuse. Here: http://www.ccel.us/churches.toc.html

    I also recommend The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen (you can buy this used off amazon) and Healing Spiritual Abuse by Ken Blue.

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  32. Michaela,
    In my mind, child porn is close enough to child sexual assault. If he wants to watch it happening, he is probably thinking of doing it himself. I back you 100% even if your former church doesn’t. You did what others should have. Even his behavior in adult Bible study was completely telling of his true intentions. I would hate to stand before God on Judgment Day and have to say no, I didn’t try to stop this from happening. I allowed Children to be put in harms way.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Michaela’s comments remind me of when my family left a church that was trying to conform my family to the KJVO mold. Our response–beyond a forcible rejection of “Rules fundamentalism” that has nothing to do with the real fundamentals–was to start enjoying liquid bread with meals. So you can say that rules fundamentalism does indeed drive people to drink.

    And thankfully for us, this is an enjoyment per John 2, not a self-medication, in case someone out there is concerned.

    Like

  34. Oh, and Michaela; can I beg you, if you haven’t done so already, to talk with a lawyer (first consultation is usually free) and/or Church Mutual or Church Law & Tax Report about this situation? They will know what to do with the evidence, whether it’s actionable or not, and what next steps you ought to take–and ought not.

    (consider it a parting gift to the kids at that church and many others–remember that CL&T reaches a LOT of fundagelicals, among others….and remember that if indeed 3% of men have that kind of perversion, you’re talking about a lot more than just one person at a typical Bay area church)

    Liked by 1 person

  35. @Brenda R.,

    I paid a very high price for standing up for children: excommunication and shunning. The pastors/elders closed the meeting with me about child safety/sexual abuse/a sex offender on Megan’s List (who was their personal friend) with a threat to me from Scripture…that I was factious, deceived, an unbeliever and destined for Hell and should be shunned. They made good on their threat, which was the point, right?

    But yes, I wouldn’t want to stand before the Lord and say that I had done NOTHING to protect children.

    As other people have speculated…what secret sins are my pastors/elders hiding that they defend this sex offender and have made relentless attacks on me to silence me.

    Just saw this on another Christian blog, a quote from the famed Abolitionist:
    ““You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”
    ― William Wilberforce

    Like

  36. @Bike Bubba,

    Thanks for your encouragement. I have worked in law offices/legal departments for 15-years so I know, thankfully, know the ropes and what to do in this kind of case. And I have taken action steps.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. @Bike Bubba,

    By the way, there’s an epidemic of child sexual abuse in evangelical churches (as well as child porn criminal cases) in all areas of the country, not just the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s also found in conservative areas of the country.

    Like

  38. Michaela; glad to see you’ve done that, so I’ll stop “nagging.” Or, more accurately, I’ll nag others to do the same–pray that my sister-in-law actually does make a report if you would. She nonchalantly told about a boyfriend abusing her as if it were the most normal thing in the world a couple of days ago.

    And well aware that the problem of child sex abuse is nationwide–it’s touched me personally, and I’ve actually written a policy designed to keep predators out of church nurseries. Point well taken.

    Like

  39. @Bike Bubba,

    Thanks for the nagging (which is really a form of encouragement). It’s refreshing considering my four pastors/elders told me that I was going to Hell, factious, deceived, an unbeliever and should be shunned for bringing up the topic of child abuse prevention/safety, they followed through by ordering me to be recently excommunicated and shunned; they defended their friend the convicted sex offender on Megan’s List (have giving him access to all kinds of ministries, including children’s summer basketball camp where the senior pastor invited him to volunteer; have placed him in charge of a kitchen clean up crew after the church lunch (not even godly women are permitted by the pastors/elders to serve in that role)…it’s just a matter of time before a child gets abused at that church (if it hasn’t already happened). Authoritarian churches like my former church are breeding grounds for abuse of all kinds (sexual, domestic violence, financial).

    Sorry you were touched by child sexual abuse.

    Good for writing a policy. I hope it expands to protect all youth/minors activities as they all need protection from predators.

    Like

  40. :^) Let’s just say I’m grateful that my experience motivated me to action, but that as you state, not all churches get the need for such a policy.

    Come to think of it, the “correlation between churches without a kids ministry policy I’ve attended” and “churches that I’ve left for reasons I’m willing to state” is pretty much 100%. It’s almost like it’s a sign that other things aren’t right, either.

    (I did get it implemented in one church, though–interestingly a church that was mostly refugees from a fairly “rules fundamentalism” church)

    Liked by 2 people

  41. Julie Anne and Hannah, thank you. You offer hope for healing, even though the pain doesn’t go away. It gets better, at least, I think it does, from what you both have said. I hope it will.

    I’m sorry that Hannah’s relationship with her father is still rocky. I’m afraid that’s our situation, too, and I don’t know how or if healing can take place there. It breaks my heart. Our teens’ father really does love his kids. He just can’t bear that they’ve rejected the hope of the gospel. He keeps trying to tell them how much God loves them, and it causes them pain, not comfort. It causes me pain to see their rejection, but all I can do is keep loving them all through all this pain.

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  42. His action toward Hannah, or lack of action, gave you a clue about his love of doctrine (obeying him and his rules) over love for your hurting daughter.

    It was our ex-church’s elders reaction (or, as you said, lack of action), towards the troubled youth in our church that helped me along the way to leaving.

    WFTT2, praying for your granddaughter.

    Like

  43. so we both cried Julie. it’s Tom and I read your whole post with Hannah. Thank you for writing this and I am blessed that you have accepted me (as a sort of son in law). We miss you and are so proud of you kicking……um behind, at your studies.

    Liked by 1 person

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