A woman, who has commented on a couple blogs I enjoy, shared some of her story of physical abuse from her father growing up … abuse he perpetrated in the name of God, which elevates it to Spiritual Abuse.
Unfortunately, I understand Spiritual Abuse … from my own parents, from my first husband, and especially from my ex-in-laws, retired from a career in ministry.
I was pondering the story of this precious woman, whose experiences drove her to atheism … and the things I experienced … and then swirled around to what my daughters experienced.
Separating God from Church
At this season in my life, where life is relatively calm compared to most all the previous years of my life, I have time to ponder the past, the choices I made, the things I did and didn’t do as a person, a woman, a wife, a friend, a mother. Some of that pondering is good, and some I just need to stop thinking about. One thing I often think about is when I pulled my daughters and myself out of church in the wake of the divorce. I did so because every Sunday something happened that left at least one of us crying all the way home, and I decided I did not want my girls to equate church and church people with Jesus and God. So we stopped church, and I separated God from church and those church people who do stupid, harmful things.
Contemplating the Past
Hindsight is not 20/20, as is often stated; rather, it’s distorted. We cannot recreate the past in the present. Much of the time I find myself deflated and critical of myself when I look back; some of it is justified, much is not. And this hovering question of whether or not I should have removed us from church wavers in and out of my conscious thought from time-to-time. Did I do the right thing? Was it best?
In light of this woman’s story … my personal experience … and pulling my girls and me out of church – and one other thing I will share last in this post – I have concluded it was the right decision. And here’s why:
The Store Incident
There was a pivotal incident years ago when my girls’ Dad tried to force them to do a terrible thing. My Aspie Girl fell into an autistic meltdown and was incapable of obeying him, causing him to become intensely angry. This was in a large store, and he was so angry he commanded Oldest to come with him and leave her sister, whom she knew was incapable of controlling herself or of helping herself. He left the premises and proceeded to leave all together (I do not know if he actually drove away and came back or simply went to his car and came back.)
Oldest fell apart. She was still young – middle school – and incapable of handling all of this but knew it was wrong to leave her vulnerable sister unprotected. She found herself curled up in a corner of the large store, calling me, crying, begging me to come get them right away because Daddy left them. I left immediately to drive the 45 minutes to get them. In that time, she was able to get her sister, tell her Mommy was coming, Dad came back in, they left, went to his place, packed their things, and met me at a restaurant parking lot. And this was when he did the unthinkable … this was when he told our Oldest, who had been a Daddy’s Girl since she was born, that he didn’t like her and didn’t want her and if she was going to be like that, then call her Mom to come get her; he didn’t want her.
Using the Bible to Justify Wrong Behavior
Two weeks later when he picked them up for his regular visitation time together, as he drove off he handed Oldest a sheet with Bible verses about children obeying their parents, chastising her for disobeying him and not leaving the store with him, leaving her sister alone. She threw the sheet back at him, told him she already knew those verses (and she did) and that she would never abandon her sister. Again he told her he didn’t like her and didn’t want her and to call her Mom to come get her, which I did.
A Pivotal Moment
As I thought of all these things – the woman who shared her story of spiritual abuse, my own spiritual abuse, and what I will share at the end of this post, I realized that it was for that one, pivotal moment, and the days and years that followed, that I believe God led me to pull us out of church and separate God from church all those many years earlier. If they related God to church people, and therefore related God to their own Dad – who never, ever missed a church service even to be with them, at that moment my Oldest would have turned from God.
The Funeral Incidents
Another incident ocured several years later at their Daddy’s funeral where their grandfather and uncle (both pastors) led the service. The things their paternal grandfather and uncle did and said surrounding his death and in that service and the days and weeks and months following were nothing short of deplorable. It was so bad that people of great respect came up to us later and told us they were sorry for what happened. It was so bad that the funeral director, even though she was bound by law not to reveal details, said to me, “It’s because of people like him that I do not believe in God.” They did terrible things and said terrible things, even of their own son/brother at his own funeral.
If I had not separated God from church people, my beautiful daughters would not be able to separate God from what these, who call themselves children and representatives of God, these who are biologically related to my daughters, did and said (and continue to do to them and me).
I shared these things with Oldest recently and asked her how that first experience would have altered her perception of God had she not already separated who God is with what her Dad and grandparents and uncle did and do … I asked her how she thought that would have changed the trajectory of her life from that point, and with realization she soberly said, “I’d be really messed up right now.”
It is HARD to be a parent, and it has been super hard for me to face these things and these choices and the years we’ve lived after them … wondering if I did the right thing … hoping I did the right thing.
And then these moments of revelation come about. A gift from God. And I am grateful. So grateful.
Any abuse done under the umbrella of God: supposedly in the Name of God, for the supposed glory of God, to supposedly honor God, supposedly because of God, using the Bible to justify the acts and/or words, or done by a person who represents God … all of that then is elevated to Spiritual Abuse.
And I’m beginning to believe that of all the forms of abuse, Spiritual Abuse is the most severe. Why? Because, in the words of Andrew Klavan, “It destroys the pathway of faith to God.”
Andrew Klavan’s Thoughts
In all honesty, I do not know who Andrew Klavan is. A friend on facebook put up one of his video shows highlighting a totally different topic than I am addressing here (he covers many topics in the episode I am fixing to share). In the midst of this video, Klavan begins to talk about the sexual abuse in the Catholic church and says some very profound things.
I take this further and relate it to all Spiritual Abuse as I defined above, not simply in the Catholic church. All Spiritual Abuse has devastating effects because again, as Andrew Klavan states, “it destroys the pathway to faith in God.”
In Ep. 560 – Hell on Earth | The Andrew Klavan Show, Klavan talks about Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church from 15:00 – 21:49. Here are some quotes that struck me – which I personally relate to all Spiritual Abuse in any church and/or by any person who represents God or does anything in the Name of God or uses God for their own purpose:
(16:00) Andrew Klavan:
“What does it [spiritual abuse] do? It puts up a barrier …”
(17:00) Andrew Klavan: quotes Matthew 23:13-15 NLT:
13 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.
15 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!
(18:35) Juliann Bortz (molested by a priest in her Catholic High School):
“The collar is still a trigger for me. They murdered something in me. Something died. Everything I believed, died.”
(18:40) Andrew Klavan:
“They took away her faith. They closed, did what Jesus said, they closed the door of heaven.”
(20:00) Andrew Klavan:
“If you are closing the door to the Kingdom of heaven, you are committing a sin against the Spirit that is immense.”
(20:23) Andrew Klavan:
“The enemy is the devil who is in your church. He is in your church. This has got to be pulled up, root and branch.”
(20:50) Andrew Klavan:
“Seventy years of taking away from people their path into the Kingdom of God.”
(21:15) Andrew Klavan:
“It destroys the pathway of faith to God.”
How this world thinks it will escape the consequences of their actions is beyond me because they are all through the Bible and history. Yes, His grace and mercy and love are great … but it is because they are great that we face the reality and consequences of sin.
If it were, as some claim it should be, that God excused such behavior because He is a God of love, then His grace and mercy and love would be weak and powerless. We know that this is not true and cannot be true because God is All-Powerful. Therefore His grace and mercy and love are powerful and come from a place of power, never of weakness.
Many times the Bible says, “Woe to him who … ” God is very serious about life and how we live it. And He is very serious about those who hurt others.
Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Luke 17:1-2 (NKJV)
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! Matthew 18:6-7
There is help and healing for those of us who have been abused in any form, including Spiritual Abuse. I am not a counselor or expert of any kind, but please do seek out qualified help in your area if you’ve experienced any of this on any level. God really does exist, He really is God, He really is Holy, He really is Healer, He really is Love, and He really is Good.
Holy God, spiritual abuse is so overwhelming for me. I cannot think of it for long or it completely pulls me under into dark places. But You can handle it. You are God. Nothing is too big or too much for You. There is no place we can go that You cannot find us. Thank You. My heart is heavy for this woman who was turned from you because of the violent abuse of her own father in Your Name, but not nearly as much has Your heart is burdened for her for Your love for her is greater than all other. I lift her up to You, Jesus, and I pray that, in Your time, You will gently draw her back to You in ways that only You can. I pray for anyone reading this that has experienced abuse in any form, especially spiritual abuse. Draw them into Your loving arms. Lead them to places and people who can help them heal. May they know they are never alone and that You are God. Thank You for protecting my daughters and me. Thank You for loving us and caring for us and healing us. Thank You for being God. I need You, and I love You, in Jesus’ Holy Name, Ame
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. I Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)