THIS TOO SHALL PASS!! And when it does, strengthen your brethren!” Even though that’s a paraphrase, it’s pretty much what Jesus told Peter after he had failed and denied Him 3 times. Peter had sworn that if anyone turned their back on Jesus, it most certainly would not be him. Yet, Peter was the very one that would betray Jesus when push came to shove. Isn’t that how we all are? Even the strongest christian has had a momentary weakness, when our flesh has won the battle in a moment of time, when we swore we would always have the upper hand. True Christians would never fully deny the Lord Jesus Christ. Even if they were caught in a moment of weakness, God would restore them to a relationship with Him.It may not be a hard core sin, but it could be a moment, or maybe a season, of weakness that we wish we never had to struggle with. As long as we live in this body of flesh, our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak. As the apostle Paul said “Who will save me from this body of death?” Certainly Paul didn’t have a struggle with sin, did he? This mighty man of God who wrote two thirds of the New Testament struggled with issues like the rest of us? Of course, as sincere believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we don’t rejoice in sin. We don’t condone it in others and certainly not in ourselves. We know when we’ve sinned and therefore until we make it right and confess, our hearts will be troubled. That’s why it’s so hard to understand things happening in the body of Christ that are being pushed under the rug and basically ignored….things that should be crying out for justice and yet are being treated like a non-issue. I’m referring now to the issue of SPIRITUAL ABUSE. Although there are many types of abuse, some in the church and others outside of the church, some may be sexual in nature, others physical, mental, emotional, or verbal. This blog is basically about verbal spiritual abuse, but the principals used here would apply to any kind of abuse. The word “abuse” is by it’s nature negative. When we simply say the word, it automatically means something negative. You can’t say the words”good” and “abuse” in the same sentence. It wouldn’t make sense. For so long many have suffered at the hands of those that were “supposed to love them” and didn’t, yet no one wants to talk about it. And those that do are often looked at with disdain, as if being a “peacemaker” was the same as being a “peacekeeper” which is not at all the same thing. A “peacemaker” will deal with an issue and not turn a blind eye to it. A “peacekeeper” will want peace at any cost, even when lives and futures are at stake. Somehow we are under the mistaken impression that to be holy means to ignore things and pretend they don’t exist rather than do what we can to make it better. There are some things we can’t change no matter what we do. Those things we put in God’s hands and move on. We trust Him to take care of the insurmountable issues. But I believe there are times when God is counting on us to make the difference. He moves through people. He uses people to help others and to speak up for those that can’t speak for themselves. What if no one had ever spoken up about the evils of slavery, or segregation, for instance. Even now there is a movement against the forces of evil involved in human trafficking, using women, men and even children for selfish and self centered purposes. God is raising up an army to combat this sinister evil that could easily be swept under the rug, if not for the diligent among us who will keep pressing for an end to this atrocity. God will even use unbelievers to fight certain evils. But I think it’s His will that believers will enter the fight for justice. I have endured years, even decades of verbal spiritual abuse and that’s by the person I trusted most to lead me in my walk with God. I was born again almost 29 years ago and started attending a bible believing church a few years later. It was one of “those churches”, yet I knew God was telling me to switch churches so I did. It started out great, with me making friends in a fairly short period of time. One of them would become one of my best friends for the next 18 years we both attended. She died 3 years ago. Although I miss her I have a great family and I am so grateful for that. It was only after attending for about 7 years, that the verbal abuse began. N I’m not a high maintenance person that needs to be coddled and catered to on a regular basis. I don’t complain because the “music is too loud” or “someone sat in my pew at church”. If anything, I would gladly give up my seat to someone else and simply find another place to sit, if I even had a favorite spot to sit. If I was simply an observer and had observed what happened to me happening to someone else, I would know that person was being abused. However, because it was happening to me, I had a harder time seeing it. To be holy means turning away and pretending it didn’t happen, right? Wrong!! Because if it happened to me, you can be sure it’s happening to others elsewhere. When someone in church leadership gets caught in adultery, or in embezzling church funds, or any other sort of public failing, everyone gets up in arms and turns against the leader. Many leave churches and some even leave their relationship with Jesus. We should call it what is is, but if the leader repents, he or she should be restored in a spirit of love, forgiveness and grace. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But when we hear stories of a church leader abusing someone they are supposed to be a good example to, we turn away and pretend these things don’t happen. We are taught, and rightly so, to respect our leaders in the spiritual realm, yet, instead of respecting them and looking to them for guidance, we often put them on a pedestal, a place that no human being belongs. Jesus said some harsh things about those that would be “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. Now, just because someone abuses a person under his care a couple of times does not automatically make him, or her, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I believe there are true born-again leaders that have simply lost their way. Maybe years of leading the sheep have caused frustration and led to burnout. We are all human and must react with grace to all situations. But over the years I have learned the ones that get the least grace of all are the ones that are the victims, rather than the abusers themselves. I’m not talking about Gods grace. I’m talking about grace from fellow believers. I think those that abuse their authority seem to get away with it because they have learned how to do it in a way that makes it hard for someone on the outside looking in to see it. I’m referring to those that surround themselves with “yes” men, making friends their closest advisors and “accountability partners”. Those are the ones that get appointed to church boards and put on staff. If any of us surround ourselves only with people that will agree with us on every issue then we’ll never have any real feedback. If I’m on staff somewhere I’m not likely to say much even if I see something is wrong, since I may be counting on that job or paycheck. Of course, that is not always the case. Some of my favorite people have worked in churches. There are many that would speak up if they needed to. But we’ve all heard of staff members themselves being abused by someone in authority over them, simply because they could not afford to lose their jobs. Some have stayed in abusive churches for years because to change churches means they would automatically lose their jobs or positions. We should be willing to move at the drop of a hat if we know for sure God is calling us away from a church, even if we have been attending there for years. As for myself, I endured over 20 years of verbal abuse before I moved on. I was praying about it once I fully realized what was happening. Yet, God did not move me until I thought I couldn’t stand one more instance of being lied about, falsely accused, publicly maligned, etc… I’d endured it in the beginning because I was in denial. In fact, I remember when I would hear of someone I’d come to know and love leaving the church, seemingly “just out of the blue”, I would automatically judge that person as being a rebel or troublemaker. Even though I didn’t know the full story. It was only after enduring years of that myself that now I can look and wonder how many of them had good reason to leave, and simply could not relay the whole story. I promise you, for everyone that comes forth and tells the truth about mistreatment in the church, there will be more people being skeptical that anything really happened in the first place. There will be more people willing to believe anything a leader says, simply because no one wants to believe a man or woman of God, with such a high calling on their lives, would do anything of the sort. Even if they themselves have been abused, if they are still in denial, they will defend the abuser. Even if there are signs that the victim is telling the truth. Even if others have witnessed it, the benefit of the doubt will usually go to the leader. I strongly believe leaders can also be falsely accused. I’m sure there are many that have been lied about and pushed out of their God-given assignments because of jealous or insecure people. But I’m also convinced that more often than not, it’s the other way around. I think when a pastor is insecure, he will often look at others with an eye of suspicion, whether that suspicion is warranted or not. He will see others that God is using as a potential threat. He will often make someone his scapegoat, because he senses that person is not the type to speak up about being mistreated. And so, the cycle continues. If he can do it to one, and get away with it, it makes it easier the next time. I knew he was making up lies about me, and yet how in the world could I prove it? Who would take the word of a member of the church over the word of the leader? The Lord had been using me as a counselor or intercessor in various ministries, but most of those were in christian businesses or circles outside of the church walls. There was prison ministry but the overseers of that were not directly tied to the church I attended. Then there was counseling in a crisis pregnancy center in a nearby city; a job I held for over 8 years. We were pro-life advocates and ministered to girls caught up in crisis pregnancy situations. I think that’s why the enemy fought me so hard through all those years. I, with those I ministered alongside , were winning people to the Lord and I had become a threat to his kingdom. Young women were keeping their babies instead of aborting them, and those that couldn’t keep their babies were putting them up for adoption. Even my years of substitute teaching in the public schools and eventually the church school allowed me to reach out to the young people in those classes. I believe that by the power of the Holy Spirit I was able to make a difference in their lives. But because none of the major ministries I was involved in were well known in that particular church, to most I was just a member with no real influence. I was not the type to tout my latest accomplishment and only do so now as is warranted in this article to make a point. I hate bragging and I can’t stand to be around braggarts. Therefore, I do this only under the direction of the Holy Spirits leading. To be lied about and maligned on a fairly regular basis was not something I expected to happen, let alone by the pastor himself. Even attending an annual banquet stirred up things that should never have happened. One year, the only year my husband was not able to attend the church banquet with me, I invited a friend. I was inclined to sit towards the back but my friend wanted to sit closer to the front, so we did. The guest speaker was a well known christian comedian, so little did I know that somehow and someway the pastor would be able to use even him to try to pull me down. The speaker had been speaking for only a few minutes when, out of seemingly nowhere, he looked at our table located near the stage he was on. Now remember, this was a COMEDIAN. He was not there to preach, he was not there to give a sermon or a 5-point message, He was there to bring entertainment and nothing more. This was a Friday night, we were sitting in a beautiful room located in a local hotel, and this was a night of fellowship. Or it was supposed to be. Apparently the pastor did not see fit to allow me the same priviledge of attending and enjoying myself as everyone else had. This comedian turned to me and said something to this affect…”You have hurt your children over the years by not allowing them to have friends or have normal childhoods!” He said more, but after that initial opening line, it was pretty much a blur. Now before you think I was imagining things, my friend told me she heard what he said too and knew he was aiming those words at me. Neither one of us said a thing until later, but I caught the looks on some of the people around us and knew they knew he was talking to me. A more bold faced lie could not have been uttered. I knew God didn’t tell him to say that because God does not lie. I looked over to where my pastor was sitting and he looked at me, then quickly turned away.The guest speaker knew he should not have said that and mumbled something to that effect. I think he was asked to do so by the pastor and simply did what he was asked. Later on I remembered that the year before when my husband and I attended the banquet, it was the same night as our wedding anniversary. I don’t think the pastor expected us to be there. The invitations were to anyone in the church that was involved in full time ministry, such as teaching a class, leading the youth, etc… At the time I was working at the pregnancy center and I sensed the Lord telling me he wanted me to attend. There were no invitations sent out but it was an open invitation to those that were involved in some sort of ministry. I even got a confirmation from an acquaintance that I was supposed to attend. My husband came with me. I went up to the pastor to tell him in private that it was our anniversary that very day. In no way was I saying it to brag or to get attention. I was simply telling him that it was a special day, our 28th wedding anniversary. I was more surprised than anyone when he went to the microphone to make the announcement that a couple there was celebrating their anniversary that very day. I think because I had been the brunt of many of his verbal lashings he expected to not get much of a response from the people in attendance, but instead people cheered and clapped and came up afterwards to congratulate us. I had not asked for that, but it was fun and encouraging nevertheless. I think the next year he set me up to make sure that the good attention I got the year before would not happen again. He was, I guess, “putting me in my place”. I’m sure he wanted to make sure I didn’t believe “my own press”, so to speak.
Even if what the comedian said had been true, which it was not, it was not the appropriate time or place. It was a very awkward moment for everyone involved. But little did I know it would not be the last time something like that would happen. It hurt but I pretty much kept it to myself, except for my friend who was with me, I never really spoke about it to anyone else. I decided to let it slide, even though I knew I’d been publicly lied about and no one came to my defense. No one that I know of ever went to the pastor to inquire about the pure level of inappropriateness of what had happened that Friday night. Because I don’t want to be a troublemaker I never said a word to my pastor and remained respectful towards him. It wasn’t until much later that I confided in a friend who ended up being my prayer partner. I didn’t tell her everything that happened over the years, but I did fill her in on some things. She told me of things that had happened to her also. Things that very few people knew about. But neither one of us went to talk directly to the pastor about it. At least not right at first. After I went to him to report some things his daughter was doing at the school I substituted at for a while, and he insisted I give him the names of people that had confided their concerns to me, I kept my distance from him. He was asking me to turn in the names of people with legitimate concerns even though I had wanted to keep their names confidential. It wasn’t enough for him to hear it from me, even though I was the one in authority as long as I was substituting for the regular teachers in that school. My word should have been good enough, but again, he wanted to show me that my word was not adequate and therefore someone else had to be brought in to give credence to my testimony. I think in some strange way I was a threat to him and he was doing all he could to discredit me in front of others. That pretty much lined up with what an elder of the church had told me as he passed me in the hall one day. This man clearly had the mantle of a prophet on him. If he told you something, you could take it to the bank. His words to me were “Someone in authority over you will come against you, but God wants you to know these attacks are not from Him”. I knew immediately who he was referring to. I think that gave me strength in the coming years as I recalled the words spoken to me by this dear man of God. I would often have to remind myself that this or that situation was not from God therefore I was not to take it as a rebuke from the Lord, but rather as an attack from an insecure man. But it was still hard and painful to realize that my pastor, the man who was supposed to act as a spiritual father to me, had instead become an unlikely enemy. I couldn’t tell just anyone. There was only two or three people I fully confided in. I didn’t even tell my husband for years because he was already getting strange feelings about this church, or rather the pastor, and I didn’t want to make it worse. He left the church before I did, but he didn’t leave his relationship with God. In fact, over the years I’ve come to appreciate the fact that he’s a wonderful husband, father and grandfather to our grandchildren. I know Jesus lives in him as I see the fruit of the spirit he shows towards his family. None of us are perfect. It’s not perfection we want to see in others, it’s rather a tendency to see them striving to be more and more Christlike. Although I didn’t tell my husband everything, there were things he was seeing for himself. Just recently, about 6 years after a certain incident, he stumbled across a journal entry I had made that he accidentally saw. He is not the type to snoop so I know it was by accident. The words jumped off the page where I had written that the day I wrote the entry the pastor had pointed me out in front of the entire congregation and spoken that God was getting ready to judge me and that I would be cursed. Now, the day that happened my son, who was about 18 at the time sat next to me, with my best friend sitting next to him on the other side. It was two weeks before he even mentioned to me that he had heard the pastor say that. I knew the whole church had heard but somehow I hoped against hope that my son had not noticed. Not only did he notice but it was one of the few times he attended that church again once he turned 18. Imagine what he thought when the pastor took time out of his sermon to, instead of offering words of encouragement and blessing, pronounce a curse on one of the sheep. I knew God did not send those words. I was able to quickly discern that. But yet I knew I was again made the scapegoat for whatever the pastor was going through personally. I had to sort of “grin and bear it” since from previous experience I knew going to him directly would accomplish nothing. A word to pastors that may be reading this. Please don’t take this lightly. I can’t imagine a person attending a healthy church, with a pastor that truly loves the sheep, and is doing all he (or she) can to lead them to their destinies in Christ, making up trumped up charges against someone that has a servants heart and treats others with the love of God. Being nice to our cronies or being biased towards those in our inner circle does not count. The bible says even unbelievers love those that love them. We should love everyone, but that does not mean we condone or excuse bad behavior. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is expose things that are happening in the least likely of places, the church. I sometimes wish I had said something sooner, but my nature is to not make waves. I don’t like to rock the boat. But now is not the time to shut up. I see no good in naming names of the pastor or the church I attended all those years. Just know that what I say here is witnessed by Almighty God who knows what I’m saying is truth. In fact, if anything, He has had to warm me up to the idea of doing this, since I don’t want to cause division in any way. When that thought crossed my mind, I felt Him say to me that the abusers are the ones causing division, whether they would admit it or not. God meant for His children to encourage each other and hold each other up. This is a battle and it’s not always easy. Jesus said that in this world there would be many troubles, but to take heart because He has overcome the world. Our biggest enemies should not be other Christians. We should be united in fighting evil, not fighting against each other. But if someone sets himself up to be your enemy when he should be your ally there is not much you can do except, as the scripture says in Romans 12:18, as much as it’s up to you, to live in peace with all men. Some people are hard to get along with no matter how hard you try. Some are impossible to please. They don’t realize that they themselves are perfectionist and are probably self-critical as well. To make others look bad somehow gives them the illusion that they are somehow making themselves look better. You know, we could expect that from the world, but how often does it happen in the church also? I’m sure many have witnessed things that happened in the church that would not have been appropriate even in worldly stratums. Yet we all turn our heads when it happens. It’s sort of like the “Emperors New Clothes” tale. If you’re not familiar with the childhood story, find a copy and read it. I’m sure you’ll make the spiritual connection. No one wants to say anything. So we listen to sermons that contain false teachings, or false interpretations of scripture, or that contain more fluff than function. And we turn our heads. Or we bury them in the sand like ostriches. We sing “This is the way we go to church” before every Sunday service. And all the while the enemy of our souls sees us fighting each other and competing for the highest places while the rest of the world goes one more day without hearing the gospel that would save their souls. If we were to expend our energies to spreading the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ we would be truly doing what God wants us to do as His children. If pastors were leading the flock instead of pushing down those that might be promoted over them somehow, more would be fulfilling their destinies and not falling by the wayside. Enough is enough! It’s time for the nonsense to stop. God will not be mocked.
I believe God will give many leaders time to repent. I believe He has already done that. My own personal journey through the corridors of abuse eventually led me to another church in the area. But even there the residue of the abuse followed me. It seemed there was no where to escape to. This pastor has influence in this city. Remember, when I finally left after more than two decades, it was not because I wanted to. I had no choice. I was not wanted there and I was not welcomed there. The few close friends I still had had left before I did. I remained friendly with many, but they simply were not in my inner circle. We can love people but still not have a close connection to them. Even after my husband stopped going, I continued to attend. When I finally left it was when the Lord gave me the scripture that says that if you are not welcome in a place to wipe the dust off your feet and leave.( Luke 9:5). I hesitated because it’s not easy leaving a place you’ve been a member of for over 20 years. There were some people I was closer to than others. We all have some people that we could easily confide in and others that are simply acquaintances. I left one month before my best friend died. When I left none of us knew how close she was to death, even though we knew by then she had health problems. It was like a confirmation that I’d done the right thing. My friend has such a gift of mercy she was the type to overlook everything, even things that caused her much pain. I don’t think she would have ever left there if she had not died. She was loyal to a fault. Loyalty is good but it can also be misplaced. Our loyalty should be first to God and then to those He places in authority over us. I witnessed some things that were spoken over her, too, that should not have been. I think eventually she gave up but her journey took her straight to Jesus which is where we all want to be some day. Mine took me, for now, to what seemed to be a place of freedom. I felt more joy after leaving there than I had felt for years before. Let me make it clear, I had the personal joy of the Lord but this pastor was doing all he could to suck that out of me. I think there was a jealousy that I was not always stressed out about something, and could still enjoy God’s presense. I know he was doing all he could to drive me out of that church, even going to extremes and making things up to discredit me or prevent me from gaining favor with certain people. Why me, you might ask. I asked myself that question a thousand times. I’m sure I’m not the only one over the years that happened to. But some had left previously and others were to come later. Either he took a liking to you or he didn’t. All of us like certain personalities more than others, but that shouldn’t stop us from being flexible enough to love everyone right where they are. After all, God gave us our personalities and apparently He loves variety. Why else would some people be extroverts and enjoy being in crowded rooms or going out on weekends, while others would prefer to sit home alone reading a good book. Some love sports and will attend any athletic event they can, while others would rather have their teeth pulled. You see girly girls who love to shop while others would rather climb trees and hike mountains. This world with all it’s wonders was created by Almighty God. How arrogant that we would think that all people have to act the same way, or be held in the same box. Of course, there are biblical principals we must all live by. Some things are not acceptable no matter what we personally think. Our opinion will never have more credence than God’s. But outside of that we are all made in the image of God, and deserve respect as human beings. That’s what makes abortion such an abomination. The unborn child has as much God-given right to life as any person on earth. Just because the child cannot speak for himself does not mean his life is worth nothing and can be extinquished on the altar of the conveniece of the parent. Abortion is not the unpardonable sin, however, so if someone has had an abortion, God’s forgiveness is available to all who ask. When we start truly respecting an individuals right to be different and unique, without condoning sin in their lives, we would start seeing a difference in our world. Even the church has gone the way of the world, judging people more on appearance than on the heart. God says He does not judge the way the world judges, He judges the heart. We may say we can’t see inside someones heart therefore we can’t judge the way God does. That’s true to an extent, but the word also says “We will know them by their fruit”. We are not to be judges per se, as that is not our job to do so. We are to be fruit inspectors, at least in our churches. The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, kindness, etc…(the list can be read in Galatians 5:22). Even a pastor can be lacking the fruit of the spirit, as well as anyone else. But somehow, they often seem to think they get a “get out of jail free” card because of their positions of authority. That’s the opposite of what the word says. The word says “We should not all strive to be teachers……teachers will be judged more strictly”. (James 3:1). MORE STRICTLY, NOT LESS! God will have the same mercy on those leaders if they realize their error and repent as He will have on anyone who repents. But to those who continue on and maybe even secretly enjoy the power they have over others, knowing they are making it difficult instead of easier for God’s people to move forward, there will be a day of reckoning. I pray it doesn’t come to that for many. Even I, as I write this, have to be aware of my ability to lead someone astray.I do this in a joyful sort of fear and trembling, knowing that as I rely on the Lord to write this through me, He will show me what is appropriate and what is not necessary. It took two long years since the last real episode in a church for me to gather the courage I needed to begin this. Hopefully it will help many, but honestly if it helps only one discouraged child of God to recognize their own situation as being abusive, and take steps to stop it, then it will be worth it. I have no agenda in this. I have no plan to try to mess up anyone’s life. I take no joy in exposing anyone for any reason. I’d rather be reading a book rather than writing one, even though I know God has given me a talent for it. I don’t like drama. I don’t like division. I’m all for unity as long as the purpose is the same. As long as the truth is being told. But after that, I draw the line. I will no longer be silent. Just know that if you are someone you love is being spiritually abused in any way, it’s not from God and it must be dealt with. He may tell you to stay longer and address the issue with those in authority. He may tell you to report it to the board, but without divine intervention it may not ever get any further than that. Boards often are known for covering up the behavior of certain members.This is not an indictment against any group and certainly not against all groups.There are many men and women of integrity that would not stand nonsense from anyone, including the pastor. To those I say thank you and I urge you to continue to stand up for what’s right. Remember, it’s the victim that needs to be defended, not the culprit. Of course, neither would I automatically believe every accusation brought against someone in authority in a church or anywhere else. But once the proper steps are taken and it’s shown that abuse has indeed happened the church should have a procedure they take to assure it won’t happen again. I myself have meant people that have left churches, some claiming it was for good, because of the abuse they suffered at the hands of people that were supposed to be representing God. Of course, if they are true Christians, the Lord will draw them back, but how much time has been wasted and how many destinies have been temporarily derailed because of the thoughtless words and actions of others? And yet one of the most oft repeated phrases when those things are brought to our attention is that the victim is just “too sensitive”, or they have to learn to forgive and forget. Of course, forgiveness must be given. God Himself said so. But sometimes overlooking anything and everything for the sake of unity has brought about the opposite result. Many that have smiled and learned to bury constant ongoing abuse over years and sometimes decades have woken up one day to find themselves overloaded with feelings of rejection, finally realizing what has happened to them all this time. Some even get angry at themselves for allowing it for so long. Forgiveness is one thing, but when the money changers were misusing the house of God for their own personal gain, did Jesus just look at them and say “Well, they are just being themselves and don’t realize what they’re doing. I’ll just turn away and let them be. Besides they are only human”. NO! That is not what he did. It’s the only time in the bible where Jesus Himself got angry enough to confront the evil directly, even with violence. He loved those men as much as He loves any person that has ever lived. But His love caused Him to confront them, not to bury His head in the sand and look away. I think those men were known for being in some sort of spiritual place of leadership, so they were influencing others to do the same. Jesus did not take it lightly and neither should we. We should expect our leaders to be imperfect human beings. Only God is perfect. But we should never excuse bad behavior just because someone would use their title to cover up abuse or sin. Titles are not given to hide behind. They are simply a way of identifying a certain role or position. Pastor should mean someone who is a spiritual father to the sheep. He should not lord it over those in the congregation, but rather he should be a good example to the flock. Many will come automatically to his defense should someone accuse him, or her, of maltreatment. However, even though that should in many cases be our first inclination, it should not be our only response. Investigation of the issue at hand should come next, without assuming that either the pastor or the victim is guilty until it’s proven otherwise.
I once read a story of a child that is now a man, that was severely abused by his mother through his entire childhood. A coach is the only one who eventually listened to his story and got him the help he needed. Years later when this abuse victim’s brother was interviewed he told anyone who would listen that he didn’t think it was so bad and that his brother was making it up. Throughout the book the author stated that while his brothers were upstairs eating supper he was in the basement being made to beg for food and often being starved for days. His own mother made him clean the bathrooms with mixtures of ammonia and bleach. He figured out she was actually trying to kill him and would make it look like she was ignorant of the fact that the mixture could cause death. He survived by breathing through the floor vents and getting air that way. She was probably disappointed when she went to get him hoping to find he had died but instead he walked out weak but still alive each time. My first thought was that this brother of his had not endured even a fraction of the abuse he did, so was not fully aware of the fact that his brother was being starved and held prisoner below. The mother often did things out of sight of his father and brothers, and threatened him not to say anything to visiting social workers when they came by to check on the family. Time and time again she would either butter him up right before a visit, or she would put fear in him that what was happening now could get even worse. The worst part was, he remembered her as being a kind woman until he reached the age of about 5. Something changed at that point that turned her into a monster, with him being her target for the next few years. Even his own father could not stand up against her and eventually left, pretty much leaving his abused son to fend for himself. Now years later, after the book was published this other son came to the defense of this woman, even though he himself would have to admit some things seemed strange and out of place. It must have felt like a double, or even triple betrayal. First his mother who is supposed to love him no matter what, then his father who abandoned ship and left him on his own with this tyrant of a mother, and then on top of all this, with his brother who belittled him by discrediting him or at least trying to. I say, let’s look at it logically. What boy in his right mind would accuse his mother, who loved him like a mother should, who fed him and clothed him and spoke words of encourgement to him, who hugged him and tucked him in at night, who made sure he got as high a quality education as she could give, would come out and made startling accusations against his own mother just for the sake of selling a book. He used his own name and the names of family members. He told of social workers coming by periodically to check on the status of the family and make sure no abuse was taking place. Obviously, that shows that reports had been made by suspecting neighbors or acquaitances, but she was a master manipulator who could do things in secret away from watching eyes. Her son was the target of all of her own shortcomings. She hated him and didn’t try to hide it, unless it was in front of someone who could do something to help him. She made up excuses for him wearing the same clothes every day to school for months at a time. The fact was, she could afford clothing for everyone else but him, and simply did not want to wash his clothes or allow him to do it. She seemed to enjoy humiliating him. He often would sneak upstairs after everyone went to bed, snatch the least little piece of bread or cracker he could find, just to stay alive. If he took too much she was sure to notice and punishment would come swiftly. Today, thankfully he has escaped this tyrants clutches and gone on to live a productive life. But this is to show how far someone can go in abusing another person and still be able and crafty enough to hide it.
My testimony of spiritual abuse goes back over 20 years. Having been raised Catholic, attending a pentecostal church was a brand new experience. In the Catholic church we were encouraged to get our bible knowledge only from the priest that read it to us on Sunday mornings. I was once told that if I read it myself I might go “crazy” like some people did. The first thing I heard in the Assemblies of God church was to go home and read the bible for myself. Actually, the day I got born-again, I picked up my bible and started reading it for the first time in my life. I may have heard of certain scriptures by having them read to me on Sundays during mass, but now I was reading it without human permission to do so. I felt compelled to read the bible and even enjoyed it. However, I stayed in the Catholic church a few more years so I didn’t make it known to many that I was reading the bible for myself. It wasn’t until I started attending the Assemblies of God years later, at the urging of a neighbor, that I was able to admit that I was learning the scriptures for myself and discovering things I’d not really known before. Therefore, it came as quite a shock when the things I was reading in the bible were not being practiced by the people that were teaching it and preaching it. I didn’t realize it at first. I was in that “honeymoon” phase when you overlook things because you’re still in the process of making friends and learning how to get along in not just a new church, but a new KIND of church. After attending about 3 months, I got up enough nerve to make myself available to fellowship with others in the church. One of the first people I met became my best friend of 18 years (she died about 3 years ago from cancer) She and I quickly found we had some interest in common. She liked to travel even more than I do, so we, along with my kids, became “travel buddies”. To this day, she was the person I was closest to in that church. I made other friends over the years, but she remained the one that I felt closest to. I actually left that church one month before she died, but at that point none of us knew that she would die a month later. It just happened that way. I feel that she had such a sense of loyalty that even though she had experienced some painful things there, she would never have left unless the Lord had taken her home. Over the years, I experienced some hurtful things, at the hands of those that are supposed to represent God. I am not and have never been a high-maintenance member of any church. I am not a troublemaker, and I don’t like drama. I love God and I love people. It takes a lot for me to actually dislike someone. I try to be flexible and allow people to be themselves. I can’t stand the idea that others have that if someone is a little bit different they are strange or weird. That doesn’t mean that sin should never be confronted. That doesn’t mean that I condone sin or rebellion. Actually I don’t. My pastor ended up verbally abusing me for almost all of those years that I attended. My husband left there first because he was seeing the abuse and couldn’t stand it anymore. He is a great husband, and gave me the option of staying, with his blessing, until I would finally admit it myself and leave there too. He knew I would eventually see it and not be able to stay any longer. But he didn’t force me to leave. He has always been the type to allow me to make my own major decisions. I was seeing some things but for so long was in denial. He let me confide in him, but I didn’t go to him with everything I saw because in the back of my mind I was hoping he’d return to the church with me. I knew that if he knew the things that were being said and done, he would never want to go back with me. I wanted to stay and wait it out. I kept hoping that somehow things would change and the pastor would get a revelation that the way he was treating me and some others was wrong. And abusive!! But it never happened. In fact, it got worse over the years. The hardest part is knowing that even though he was verbally abusive to me both in public and in private at times, there will be those still attending that church that will be in denial and never admit what they saw for themselves. Maybe at the time they were not aware that it was abuse; after all, who wants to believe a pastor, who represents God to the church, would make up such a thing? There has to be a reasonable explanation, right? Many believe that “if the pastor said it, then it must be true!” Yet, in the same breath, they’ll make excuses for his behavior, because after all, “he’s only human”. Well, if he’s only human then he is quite capable of abusing another person and even capable of lying. Which is what he did on more than one occasion. I’ve always had respect for the leadership of churches. In the Catholic church I respected the priest. Years later I learned some of them didn’t deserve that respect, when it was revealed that they had participated in child sexual abuse and molestation. One in particular, a priest in the church I attended, was found to have molested dozens of boys, many that had served as altar boys over the years. It became a national scandal. To this day there are testimonies from men who were the boys that had been abused. Some have never recovered and suffer emotional trauma even as grown men. How many think that if someone stands as a representative of God they virtually can do no wrong. In fact, wearing the title of “pastor” or “bishop” or “priest” often just makes it easier for them to hide behind. This is not a witch hunt. I would like to be able to say that I’ve never been abused and I can’t understand those that claim they were. I am fully aware that many that read post like these will have a hard time believing someone’s personal testimony of abuse in the church. If it has never happened to them, it would be like trying to explain the pain caused by being raped physically. The person might be able to show compassion but they themselves will not be able to identify with the pain. It will always be thought that the abused person is exaggerating or too sensitive. I understand all that. I probably would have felt the same way if I were writing an article 30 years ago. But I’m writing it today, and writing as one who has “been there” and “done that” and not only knows it happens, but want to do all I can to help others that may be going through the same thing. First of all, the first thing I would tell someone that is being abused in the church is..”GOD did not do this. He is not the one abusing you, nor does he condone it. He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother. He will NEVER leave you or forsake you”. There is nothing sadder than reading a story of someone who was abused for years in a church and decided to leave. The leaving was justified and even necessary. But then they’ll say that because of that experience, they have decided Christianity is not for them. That because people have let them down, that God was behind all that. They wrestle with doubt about God’s goodness because a person let them down. To anyone feeling that way…don’t believe that lie. God is always for us, and never against us. He will restore all that has been stolen from you. In the next few posts, I will reveal my testimony of abuse in the church(es) I attended. All the names will have been changed, except mine. I will not reveal a persons name, or a churches name, or a members name, unless God compels me to, or unless I have their permission to do so. This is not about hurting someone. This is about exposing some things going on in churches all across America and beyond. No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to say anything. And all that does is allow the abuse to continue.