Friday, September 04, 2009

Religious Abuse Religious Extremism

Posted by Hannah at 2:40 PM

As I struggle with my anger over the story of Jaycee Lee Dugard I read a story regarding Elizabeth Smart as well.

In both cases, the accused abductor seems to have been motivated by religious extremism, Ed Smart said.

"It makes you angry that anyone would use God as an excuse to rationalize their predatory behavior," he said.

Religious abuseIt amazes me that most people can connect the dots with the religious abuse - among other forms of abuse - with these two ladies, but can't see the downright screwy thinking of the church regarding domestic violence of all forms.

I mean they use GOD to rationalize the abusive behaviors towards family members ALL THE TIME!


I remember years back when I started on my journey of learning that I had experienced abuse. What I was living with was indeed abuse - verbal and emotional abuse. I didn't recognize the physical abuse right away. I assumed that getting the snot kicked out of me was the only form of physical abuse. I learned later that was incorrect as well.

Religious ExtremismThere were a number of people that KNEW I was being abused, and yet never pointed that out to me. They never told me I was being abused. I had never heard of emotional abuse, verbal abuse at the time. They knew I was in the dark about the issues, and instead I was told to 'work on myself'. That was a form of religious abuse to me. Why? It was never validated that what I was dealing with was WRONG on so many levels. I don't have an issue with 'working on yourself', but how can you truly do the work that is needed if people can't vocalize the core issues?

If you can't call out the sin that was happening in my life HOW do you work on it? How can you 'work on yourself' if no one will tell you what you are dealing with? People say that abuse victims are codependent. How certain behaviors of that codependency actually enables the abuser to continue. How you need to learn proper boundaries, and learn to disengage when it comes to certain actions or behaviors. That was 'secular' talk. I don't agree with some of the opinions of the secular concept either, but at least they hit closer to validating my reality at the time!

God, the Cosmic Janitor would fix everything if I just did things the right way! I loved the way Adventures in Mercy described this concept so well! How if I just believed in the Spiritual Pixie Dust they were handing me all would be well! Just follow their instructions step by step, and things will just magically turn around! My faith and commitment to my marriage would be in question if I wasn't willing to do so after all! Do this to the best of my ability! They would tell me if 'best of my ability' was fulfilled! For some reason I wasn't able to gauge that from what I was told. Their definition was religious extremism, and they always had an out about HOW you must not be doing something right if it didn't work!

So how do you 'work on yourself'? Here is the quote from Adventures in Mercy that I thought nailed it on the head!

When I was twenty and full of idealism, I thought that being a Christian meant I would be spared from heartache and spared from the bad things that happen to those poor non-Christians. I thought that if another person said they loved Jesus (and honestly did), that meant they would not do bad things, or that, if they did, they would quickly ammend them upon consideration.

I thought that if I followed the five steps to success, or the a-b-c’s of perfect family’s, or plastered Bible verses all over my wall, that we would be protected from sin and the fall and the destruction that it brings. I thought the Bible-based books I bought would help me fix all problems. I thought that Christian service and Bible memorization would innoculate us from dealing with hard things in hard ways.

I thought that Real Life on Planet Earth didn’t apply to me.

That attitude is so common its sickening! I do remember questioning this concept, but I was quickly shamed over that way of thinking. Why didn't I clue into the fact that was the wrong way of handling things as well? I was used to being shamed, guilted, and told WHAT is WRONG WITH YOU! Just follow the program WILL YA! That wasn't just happening with my marriage, but also my childhood had shadowed this same line of thinking. They had a different way of doing it, and I just assumed that is how the world turned.


legalismThere are situations in life where the phrase does apply, but NOT within an abusive environment. I couldn't understand WHY people need to nit pic over every last detail to find that ONE portion of the relationship that was wrong - so they could use this phrase to hang their hat on!

OH dear! It sounds like your husband tends to be a bit of neat freak, and all you need to do is STEP IT UP a bit in the cleaning of your home! I always go out of my way to SERVE my husband in ways he likes! Granted my husband wouldn't call me those filthy names if I didn't, but maybe there are other things you are doing to push those buttons of his! It takes TWO TO TANGO!

What does that tell a victim? It tells them that their house cleaning that isn't up to par for the abuser, and you pushed their button by NOT doing it THEIR way! Granted SOME people don't call people NAMES over this, but there has to be something else IN ADDITION to this to make him act this way!

You see people within the christian bubble don't act irrational! ONCE you get married all the rules CHANGE! Look for that reason they were justified so you can STOP IT the next time! We are sinners that can't call out the sin without finding the sin on the other side as well! NOW - try finding that verse in the bible!

All their advice did was make me feel worse. I was this bad awful person that caused others to abuse me. I wasn't good enough in childhood, and now not good enough in marriage. People will ALWAYS find something wrong with me! I will never have the 'chaste' behavior down perfectly, and I will always be doing something in my life to screw it up! I will never be deserving of love, respect and honor. Why? I'm not perfect and never will be. I followed the program, and yet my effort wasn't good enough. How can I be good enough for you God?

People with a crushed spirit have now been ground into the earth, and transformed into DUST!


Religious ExtremismI found the concept of verbal abuse one night on the internet, and it was recommended that I read, "The Verbally Abusive Relationship" by Patricia Evans. I have to tell you it was hurtful and painful to read, but it was like a LIGHT went on in my life! I remember since I lived in a black and white world some of the concepts didn't apply, so of course I spent alot of time talking myself OUT of this concept of 'verbal abuse'. I didn't fulfilled every last concept, so of course it didn't apply to me.

I went outside the church for help with encouragement from people online. I was asked to contact my local domestic violence shelter. The thought of that scared the daylights out of me. Are they going to tell me my situation doesn't apply? Are they going to tell me it isn't that bad? What if they tell me I was silly, and called the wrong place? The thought of more rejection just paralyzed me. I just couldn't figure out WHAT I was doing wrong that made life so painful! I'm NOT saying I felt I was an angel, and perfect in every way! Believe me life had already shown me I was far from that! I think I just didn't wish to risk someone telling me yet again how this had to be something I did to cause this. I felt awful because I couldn't figure out what that evil was within me, and what they attempted to show me about myself certainly didn't fit the bill of evil.

Because It Matters recently wrote an article about her struggles called, Dealing With the Aftermath of Abuse.

When I was in my late 20s I realized I had nightmares most nights and had for as long as I could remember. These nightmares were the product of the church terror motivation campaign – the world is out to get Christians and will torture and kill us all if they get a chance (including showing graphically violent movies depicting this to teens and adults – talk about abuse!); the government is controlled by evil gremlins who hate Christians and will tear apart Christian families if they get a chance; etc.

On the other side of the coin was the church’s constant drill that I was inherently evil and unacceptable. In real life I was regularly held up for public reprimand and ridicule in youth group and at Christian school and that phenomenon appeared in my dreams frequently as well – though I followed the rules religiously. Fortunately, I knew my parents loved me, but in my dreams they turned on me just like the church did. Those dreams were a reflection of what was happening in real life, just magnified and concentrated.

Realizing I was being plagued by nightmares allowed me to address those fears on a conscious level. But they reappear from time to time still. In more recent years, the dreams that haunt me are of my marriage and rejection by the church.

The Religious Extremism kept me feeling guilt and shame. I learned that even if you are unequally yoked that a magically transformation by your chaste behavior could even turns things around. I was noticing that no matter WHAT your circumstance was 'people with little faith' were the ones that struggled, and didn't think their life would turn around if they followed their program. I was beginning to wonder if the mercy, grace and love was something you get to experience once you got into heaven only. WELL for certain people like me of course! I couldn't do anything right so of course that didn't apply.

I learned alot of the advice I was receiving was making my situation worse, and the shaming that I felt over it was a form of religious abuse. If you can't vocalize the reality of my world you can't help me cope with it. I learned within the years the church does divert conversations about my life just like he did. They projected their issues upon me just like he did. SURE it was a different form, but between the both worlds? My faith and home? Both made me feel worse about ME, and I was wondering if I would ever be good enough to love. Love like they said God loves you - not the 'love is just a feeling' type they hit you with. That statement confused me in my circumstance and I felt I was expecting to much from my life and faith. Maybe I was just solidly warped.

My counseling with the domestic violence shelter validated some of the things I wanted to own that no one would allow me to. It wasn't my fault, or something I did to HIM to make him abuse me. Being a better wife doesn't stop the abuse. Playing my role better doesn't change him. They didn't encourage me to leave and divorce. They didn't attack my faith. They didn't shove divorce lawyers down my throat, and tell me how MAN oppressed me. They didn't do any of the things that I was told they would do. They were perfectly okay with me taking a long time to feel safe around them.

The second book I read was Lundy Bancroft's, 'Why does he do that? Inside the minds of angry and controlling men'. I have to say I think I enjoyed that book more than Patricia's book. He broke things down into smaller pieces for me to understand. He spoke of different types of abusive behavior, and he labeled them for me. Some of the behaviors I didn't experience, but there were some I clearly did. WOW it wasn't my imagination afterall! People do actually ACT like this, and YES it is okay to admit it is damaging! WOW! Why did I have to stay in this tortured state all this time? Why can't people just admit it? I had to wonder after a while if they felt the group might question their faith, walk, etc if they dared validate me.

I did find some faith based material on the subject after a while, and I found that huge chucks of it are rejected by the church. The books I spoke about helped me own my reality, and learn to cope with it. My counseling at the domestic violence shelter helped me learn about aspects of me and my experiences in life that were priceless. I found forums online like OUR PLACE, that I could talk to both people of and just plain secular people that helped me on this journey.

I found that God does love me, and he will help me along my journey. I'm okay speaking my truth, and if people want to attempt shame me over it? So be it! I won't live their reality anymore. Its not healthy for me. Its okay to have my voice, and speak out against their contradictions and unhelpful viewpoints. Its okay to tell them they are damaging the people they claim they wish to help. God gave me the gifts he gave me, and he also gave me the strength and love he wanted me to have. Man will not tell me not to use them due to some equation they have to fulfill their definition of a Christ follower. I like reality better. My life has alot of hurts, but now I can feel God's love. With all their advice? That is something they just couldn't show me. Their pride and unwillingness to humble themselves to that reality shows me things that I needed to see. They may claim I'm blind, but who is seriously! Who is blind here? It took books, forum, domestic violence shelter, and some fellow Christians that think outside the box to help me see that God loves me. I'm okay with all my warts, because he still loves me. He doesn't have unrealistic hoops for me, and he lead to healing.

I don't need the Religious Extremism, and their list of rules to follow their program. I refuse to take the shame and guilt over their religious abuse to keep me down from reality. I will pray for them, and I hope they soon see the light of truth is better than warping reality into something that makes it more palatable for them.

Mr. Smart said: "It makes you angry that anyone would use God as an excuse to rationalize their predatory behavior," he said. Isn't though?

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Amy on 10:32 AM said...

As usual, another of your posts really speaks to me. Several people have closed their ears to me during this time I'm going thru. They don't want to hear the bad, they don't want to hear what my h did or does, they think I should just be over it and forgive and get back together.

When I confronted a man from my church who was telling my h to move back into our house because that is where he belonged even though he had left months earlier and been psychologically abusive for 20 years of our marriage and I explained more deceptive things my h had recently done, this man told me "those things (deception from my h) don't matter anymore." Hmmm, ya don't think so???

But see I'm not being a good Christian wife because I too have stepped outside of the box where so many Christians have wanted to place me. Even a dear friend of mine will not discuss any of this this with me anymore because I have told her that there will not be a reconciliation. She says "but God hates divorce" and I told her that it most certainly is not His plan for when two people marry but more than hating divorce God hates the violence that man brings to his home.

I was once told by another church member that God only wants to see our marriage restored and he told me that it is his goal to help that happen. Really?? God appointed him to make those decisions for me, huh?
My response to him was that I believe God wants to see PEOPLE restored to Him more so than relationships, and if a marriage is restored because of an abusive spouse repenting and being restored to God than that is wonderful.

I too used to think that this was just my lot in life that God gave me to deal with until one day when I got to heaven I would be free from all the pain and I would have many jewels in my crown for standing steadfast through it all. Someone I once knew said that to me one day and it was one more kick in my side to keep me down.

How I have reached out to people over the years and most Christians the message has been: to stay, while praying, submitting and respecting, and knowing that God sees your struggles and hurts and one day He will reward you mightly for your faithfulness.
THAT is the message I've struggled with for years while staying in an abusive marriage that was wearing me down, causing scars in my children and literally sucking the life out of me.

And even now I jump back and forth over the fence wondering if I'm doing the right thing in divorcing. I do know one truth in my life: I will completely die if I go back to what was.

It often feels to me that I'm being abused all over again from the things that Christians say to me and their judgements of me instead of love during this horrific time in my life.

I've often though how I would like one day to put all these people that judge me in one room and let my boys talk about what they experienced all during their growing up years. Perhaps if it came from the children it would be different, but no, it wouldn't and I know that.

Hannah on 11:13 AM said...

Ah Yes! The forgive and get back together speech! He did say he was sorry speech. Remember God hates divorce speech. Remember your place speech.

Its never deal with the brokenness of this man, and show him how accountability and healing can bring peace - maybe for the first time in his life - can happen. I think at times they are scared of him to. I realize it maybe for different reasons. If we can't get him to do what we feel he needs to heal what do we look like? Lets just allow God to do that part, because its to big for us. Its just to big of a risk for the church. The woman and children are easier to talk to and deal with. Maybe if we show her its not that bad we can finally move on.

Its laziness within the fold. Its their lack of faith. Its them not reading the spirit of the Word, and fear that things will fall apart in front of their eyes.

Jesus may be the radical of his day, but we might get sued! We might offend! We might be wrong! They MIGHT divorce!

They should listen to the children... it would be a sin not to! I guess they fear not being able to deal with that either.

I would have MORE respect for them saying they are just as confused, scared and bewildered personally. At least that would be real. Do what we can, and know is right .... then allow God to take the wheel!

What a concept! It may just work!

Amy on 3:28 PM said...

Amen Hannah! I realize through a situation that the Lord has placed in my life that people are scared of facing and confronting this issue of a hidden abuse. And most people cannot even say it is abuse. Heck, it took me over 10 years to finally be able to let that word pass through my lips and even now when I hear it spoken I cringe inside. Abuse?? No, this wasn't abuse was it??
And to me that is a big issue here too. The Christian community would rather never use that word, after all, isn't that a more secular term? It doesn't matter what happens within a marriage aren't we suppose to just stick it out because that is glorifying to God that we suffer for him?

Even today the message was about work ethics and my pastor said it is important to not put on one face Mon-Friday at work and then wear a different face on Sunday mornings. Don't be a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde he said.

So, how about applying that to marriages. Why can't we as Christians stand against someone being two faced in a marriage. At home they are abusive, at church they are this sweet innocent person that is so personable no one could ever believe that they could do those things that she is accusing him of.

I had a neighbor the other day asking how things were and she tried to be kind but basically said to me, "he is just so nice and personable, not that you aren't", she said, "but he's so easy to talk to and I just never would have guessed."
Wow, why don't you just punch me in the gut while you're are at it. :(

Maybe one day when I feel healed, if that ever happens in this lifetime, I will be used to speak out about this issue that everyone wants to so quietly sweep under the rug.

My oldest son told me the other night that he realizes now he has many scars from the way his father was with him. That is the first time he has been that open with me over me and his dad separating.
And as I've always said, if those scars were visible on the outside I would like to think that not one person would be telling my h to go back home where you belong and telling me to forgive and forget and take him back. :(

Ever so slowly I am finally feeling the healing process take place in my life. I have been reading some of the blogs you list here and it is healing in itself to know I'm not alone.
Thank you for what you do.

Hannah on 6:03 PM said...

I have to be honest, and say I didn't use the word abuse at all. Heck even when I finally owned the label of what was happening. I learned it got people to defensive, and so I used other words instead. lol can't say I got a different response tho!

You have some wonderful insight! I love your inspiration readings! I'm still giggling over the David and Goliath one! LOL! SO TRUE!

Hillary@QuiveringDaughters on 10:06 AM said...

Great post! Keep on keeping on! How do you address critics who say that abuse is subjective? Many within fundamentalism believe the term "abuse" is so arbitrary that any attempts to help are swept under the rug of denial.

Hannah on 12:47 PM said...

Hillary I would have to think on that a bit personally. I mean what is subjective about a pattern of behavior? It’s sad when they can grasp pattern of behaviors when it comes to certain ‘sins’, and they can’t discern it when it comes to others. I know what you are talking about, and to be honest? It never made much sense to me.

It’s either lack of education, and possibility NOT wishing to educate themselves? Lack of discernment skills they seem to think they have? Allowing themselves to be blind? I think at times they feel attacked or something, and completely miss the point.

Lets say you have a group of men that all want to be ushers. There are only so many positions available, and there are more men than positions. Okay. They work out a schedule to make sure all the men have an opportunity to be ushers. You have one gentleman that is upset by the arrangement. He feels since he has been at the church the longest, and given of himself enough the rotation shouldn’t apply to him. The committee disagrees, and he groans loudly about it. The rotation stays.

Each Sunday this man complains about one or all the ushers, and how they did their job. If a gentleman is late one week? He will loudly question their commitment to the job. It gets to the point all the ushers know if that job isn’t done perfectly each week they get to listen to this man carry on and complain. What happens next? I would assume the pastor or someone else would sit this man down, and sincerely and lovingly ask this man to COOL HIS JETS! Lol! The man understands –or states he understands – that he has made people upset and uncomfortable. He seems to understand the disrespectful behavior, and agrees to approach it differently. One week goes by and it seems like it is settled. The second week? The behavior starts slowly and progresses each week. At the end the church can go one of two ways. They can allow the ushers to walk on eggshells from then on – or risk internal fighting OR ask the man to resign his position as usher.

Chances are very good either way this man is going to continue to be nasty. He is mad about the usher situation, and he doesn’t like the fact they won’t do things his way. We have all come into contact with those types I would assume. He will be the same way no matter where they place him in the church. If things aren’t done his way? He is upset, and causes friction.

What drives people crazy about their behavior? What hurts them? His pattern of behavior.

I have to ask them one question! Are they being subjective over being upset at him as well?

Anonymous said...

I just love this blog! I found from a link on another blog. I once was in a support group for Adult survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. My abuse was on going from the age of 9 til I was 17.

I have a great Husband, however in the earlier years of our marriage he was on the dominating side, and I was in sort of a co dependency relationship with him. He was good to me in so many ways but there was that problem, where I was kind of afraid of him.

So he did go to the support group with me. I remember the Minister who so lovinly put this group together, asked me If your husband acted around my wife, how he is around you, would She react the same way? I had to say no, because She wasn't sensitive to him and his ways, like I was. I guess the point I am trying to make here, is that other people can say well the behavior is subjective, but how would they know since they are not living with this person?

I saw my precious Mother abused physically, verbally and emotionally, and yes she was sick all the time. I would like to say that we have to stop feeling like we are responsible for someone else, whether they straighten up or not.

If it is a Christian Marriage, and the Wife decides that it will be in the best interest of her and her kids to get out and She files for divorce, then whether She returns or not, He will have to come to terms with his wrong doing, and if he is sincere, he will admit his wrong doing and pray for forgiveness and the strength to go with his life with her or without her.

Hannah on 9:58 AM said...

Thank you Anonymous 7!

I wonder at times if the church will recognize that they do teach others to be codependent. We all need to come to terms with ourselves, and yet they don't truly allow that.

I appreciate you insights! Good one! We need more firm thinkers like yourself!

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