- Religion and Philosophy
Are You Stuck in an Abusive Relationship With Christ?
The dangers of fundamental Christianity
I once met a lady who who is no longer with the church. She struggled with the decision, but once she left the faith entirely she felt free. As free as any person would feel after leaving an emotionally abusive family. This poor lady was raised by devout parents of a fundamentalist sect of Christianity. Her formative years were spent in a home with eight other siblings, in a house with no interior doors. She was allowed no privacy, as that may have led to temptation in some form. Her email account was a shared account that was split amongst the whole family. If she was pure in the eyes of God, the reasoning went, then she would have nothing to hide.
As a female, she was raised to believe that her entire purpose on earth was to get married young and have as many children as possible. Dating, in many fundamentalist sects, is tightly controlled, short lived, and carries with it the expectation of marriage. Newlyweds are expected to have children right away. Any problems that a couple may have with conceiving a child is viewed as a lack of faith, not a medical issue. This particular lady, as is the case with many in fundamentalist sects, was taught that she needed those children to help the Christian fight against the rest of the world; specifically countries with a Muslim majority and the godless Asian nations. The more children she reared, the more future voters there would be to change political policy and assist in creating a more pure and wholesome America. She was taught of a vengeful and judgmental God who saw all her sins laid bare, and condemned her daily.
Sadly, her story is not an unusual one in the fundamentalist culture. Men and women, barely old enough to vote, and too young to even buy booze or rent a car, are encouraged to marry and have as many children as possible. Spousal abuse is not uncommon as women are taught that they are subservient to men. If a husband is angry, it’s the wife’s fault for not submitting to his will. In fundamentalist families, a woman’s body is not her own but is shared between her husband and God. Both women and children who are disobedient face corporal punishment in one form or another. In fact, some fundamentalist denominations even have set instructions on how to spank infants in order to discipline them. Children are often homeschooled to keep them from temptation, the influence of a godless government, and other factors that the parents can’t tightly control.
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.
Signs of an abusive relationship
Of course, the keyword here is “control.” This type of spiritual abuse, in the end, is still abuse. It’s physical abuse in the form of domestic violence against women and children, and it’s emotional abuse. As with other cases of emotional abuse; the victims are torn down, made to feel worthless, stripped of pride, dignity, and self esteem. They face ostracism if they attempt to leave the movement and many are left with mental trauma that mimics post -traumatic stress disorder. Those who break free tend to leave religion altogether, for who would ever want to stay in a relationship with an angry, abusive God?
The National Council Against Domestic Violence List of Abusive Behaviors
-Controlling who the victim sees, what they do, and where they may go
-Monitoring what the victim does/ stalking them online or in person
-Preventing the victim from attending school or holding a job
-Destroying the victim’s property
-Preventing the victim from interacting with their family or friends
-Controlling how the victim dresses
-Shaming the victim
-Telling the victim they're always wrong
The above is only a partial list of signs in an abusive relationship. Please check the NCADV website for a more complete copy. If you are married or share a home with a partner who displays those signs, please, seek help from a qualified professional. Unfortunately, some people see those same signs within the church. It is a distressing parallel, and a tragedy that such corresponding lines could ever get drawn. Nobody should live under the thumb of a controlling and abusive figure.
The love of God can set you free
No one should be stuck in an abusive relationship. If any man or woman reading this is trapped in such a union with their spouse I strongly encourage you to escape. There are countless shelters and charities dedicated to helping the victims of emotional and physical violence. That kind of abuse and control can leave physical and mental scars that can last a lifetime. However, through counseling and support, the victims of such abuse can become whole again. If you are such a victim and you’re reading this; you deserve to get the help you need. You deserve to escape. You deserve better. Whether you are in a physically, emotionally, or spiritually abusive relationship, I hope you can find the strength to break free.
These types of spiritually abusive fundamentalist sects are harmful to both God and the children of God alike. At their core they're not of God, only Satan can pervert love in that manner. They do more to harm the church than any atheist or anti-theist ever could. People who escape these sects seldom turn to the loving arms of our merciful Father, rather they leave religion entirely. They become vocal critics of the church, and who can blame them? The only God they've ever known was a judgemental, angry God ready to cast them into hell at the slightest provocation.
The Christian God is a god of love. He loves all of His children. We were made in His image and we are special in His eyes. God never would have sent His son to die an agonizing death on the cross for anybody He didn’t love. Jesus never would have died for you if He didn’t love you. That kind of extreme sacrifice can only come from Love. John 3:16-17 teaches us that “For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”
That last line in the verse is as important as the preceding sentence. God did not send Jesus to condemn us all, but to save us all. It causes me great pain to know that there are Christians out there who are denied the knowledge of a loving God. God is not a controlling god. He never would have given humanity free will if His intent was control. He wants us to come to Him, not through force or coercion, but of our own volition. God sent Jesus out of love, not condemnation. Men and women who abuse their spouse or their children do so out of a perverted, twisted version of what they call “love.” It’s not love, it’s a sickness. These types of fundamentalist sects spiritually abuse their flocks with a polluted version of what they call the “love of God,” but it’s not love. The genuine love of God will set you free, not enslave you. I pray that people the world over learn the pure, life-affirming love of Christ.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
© 2017 Anna Watson