That may sound like an odd question, at least it does to me. I say that because I was raised in the church, so for me to sit here and have a realization that religion may have been used in an abusive manner, is a tough pill to swallow. Religious Abuse? Me?…Quite possibly yes.
This post may very well be quite controversial, but honestly it’s been something that’s been on my mind a lot these last few months. I’m going to try and be as objective and non-judgmental as positive. In other words, I want to realistically look at the possibility of how religion was used in my upbringing. If it was abusive, then so be it; but if not then perhaps I’m wrong but it’s better to work this through and know as best I can one way or the other.
Am I model church going type of person? The answer would be, probably not if you don’t really know me. Then again, the model church going person isn’t as clear cut as it was back in the day.
I can curse like a sailor, I can have a negative outlook on life at times, and I really can’t stand the typical “Jesus band aid” that is so often used. I don’t care for statements like the following:
“This is what God wants you to deal with right now”. “It’s God’s will that you are going through this or that right now”.
I was raised that when I did something wrong and my mom would punish me or lecture me, it was always “I’m not making you feel bad, God is”. “This isn’t me giving you a guilty conscience, it’s God”.
Now honestly, does God want to scold me? Does he want me to feel like dirt? Does he want me to feel “this” big? I’m not suggesting that he approves of everything I’ve done, but is he not a loving God, full of forgiveness? Seems contradictory to me to think otherwise.
I’m fully aware that if I did something wrong, I should be punished for it as a kid. I know there are consequences for my actions, both then and now. I get it. However, if she was going to punish me as a kid then just do it, but why does it always have to be that God is upset with me? That she is doing what God is telling her to do?
It’s how the message is presented that has affected me in ways I never realized. I never thought of myself as a victim of religious abuse. If the Bible is used as a weapon; to make me feel like the worst person ever, that feels like abuse to me. The Bible is supposed to be a book of encouragement, to be an instrument of teaching. It contains life lessons, commandments, and a message of hope, but when someone twists that around, it creates a ton of confusion.
What’s really true now and what’s not? How much of my guilty conscience is really God vs just…wait for it…my mother?
My dad never invalidated me as a kid, he never made me feel like I was doomed and that I should be scared of God like my mom has. They both share the same belief, but his way of presenting it was as an encourager, not an invalidating, debilitating weapon of doom.
I was sent to a private school my whole life, went to church every time the doors were open. Prayed before every meal, before and after every trip, etc. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that as far as I’m concerned, but for someone like me who heard one message in church and then a different tone of the same message at home, it just didn’t add up.
I still struggle today with more questions than I ever had before.
Growing up it was basically, “this is how it is, no ifs, ands, or buts. Do this, think this way, act this way, don’t talk like that.” It felt like I was not able to have a mind of my own. The religious part of my life was already set in stone. If I dared to question anything, I was in the wrong.
I wouldn’t dare try to interpret what I was taught in any other manner than the way it was presented.
I get that as parents we are to impart wisdom and instructions to our kids. However, where I differ is that once you offer and/or supply that wisdom it’s up to the individual to make up their own mind. Forcing something, anything (not just religion) down somebody’s throat 24/7 increases the possibility of rebellion. That’s the path that I chose for a long time.
Some other basic “truths” I was raised on were things like:
- If you were gay, you had no place in the church at all.
- You should not hang around people who are not church goers and don’t act as church goers do. You should witness to them, invite them to church, but being friends with them was not recommended.
- You should not get divorced, period.
- Treat others as you would want to be treated. (Which is correct, except when that “truth” is up for interpretation based on how someone looks or acts.)
God spent much of his time on earth with those who others wanted nothing to do with. He didn’t hate or mistreat anyone. He came to save us all, not purposefully alienate anyone.
I’m not here to bash Christianity or any other type of religion, that’s not my intent at all. I consider myself a Christian and I know that I’m going to heaven one day. I fully believe that once you ask God into your heart, he is with you forever. He will never leave you nor forsake you.
However, this topic of religious abuse is fairly new to me and it’s been raising a ton of questions and making me think. It’s not a bad thing to dive into the depths of your mind and re-examine what you were taught, as long as you keep an open mind. Which is what I’m doing.
Was I a victim of religious abuse? I think in some ways yes, I was.
I am fully capable of making up my own mind, I just have to be OK with what I come up with and how it applies to me.