Wednesday, January 30, 2013

an abusive faith

i know, before i even begin to write this, that not everyone has this experience with christianity. for me, what i am about to write is very, very true. you can explain it away all you want, by saying it's not jesus and the people who perpetrated these ideas aren't really christians (no true scotsman, anyone?) and that it's just this one sect or type of christians that make me draw this comparison.

maybe.  just maybe.

but growing up in a conservative evangelical faith tradition, i found that their claim to having the "truth" encompassed these things. they still preach (in fact, this very week) that they have the right answers and the right interpretation. it's very difficult, after a lifetime of that, to see real-true-christianity in any other light.

unfortunately there are liberal-basically-agnostic people who have felt this same thing from their churches, communities and versions of christianity. so make of it what you will - take it or leave it.

i feel this way.

The Warning Signs of Abuse - from

[insert church/christians/doctrine/god in place of partner]

Do you feel nervous around your partner?

Hell yes. The reasons will become apparent as we go through the checklist.

Do you have to be careful to control your behavior to avoid your partner’s anger?

Yes. Even when I was dealing with people/ideas of god that didn't blatantly say he would punish or reward specific behavior there was always the idea of "put god first" if you want the good stuff. If nothing else you needed to control your behavior to avoid the anger and scorn of fellow believers. If they were progressive enough to believe that God wasn't going to punish you (or "withhold blessings") then at the very least they saw their concern or frustration with you as righteous, and something they did on God's behalf.

Do you feel pressured by your partner when it comes to sex?

In this context "sex" could stand for evangelism or staying pure or whatever you wanted - and YES i felt pressured in all kinds of things. But I also felt pressured by christian doctrine to put out for my husband whenever he wanted because my "body is not my own."

Are you scared of disagreeing with your partner?

I was scared of disagreeing with god. That would make me a "fool" or "disobedient" or most likely rebellious, which is as bad as witchcraft. We all know that a truly surrendered Christian does not disagree with God. That is the slippery slope to hell. God is GOD, you know. And on top of that, I was scared to disagree with the powers that be, and fellow Christians. Shame, shunning and gossip was the least of the things to be scared of, with future job positions being taken away and being sent away from the church community being absolute possibilities.

Does your partner criticize you, or humiliate you in front of other people?

Does God do this? Well... I could maybe make a case. (His word humiliates enough people in it's pages.) But enough of His People do it in His name that it doesn't matter if He does it. Public confessions and repentance requirements can often be humiliating. Public criticism in the name of God is just par for the course.

Is your partner always checking up on you or questioning you about what you do without your partner?

Hahahaha! I just have to laugh. It's amazing how accurately this describes the Bible College campus where I spent six years of my life. And then, of course, there is the "God is always watching! God knows everything you do!" stock christianese.

Does your partner repeatedly and wrongly accuse you of seeing or flirting with other people?

It's amazing how just a small departure from the prescribed script will bring about accusations of wrong doctrine, even if you have expressly stated you agree with the person accusing you. Repeatedly and wrongly - absolutely. If you head down a path not explicitly laid out as okay, get ready for accusations and gossip. Lots and lots of gossip.

Does your partner tell you that if you changed, he or she wouldn’t treat you like this?

As I was told, time and again: "Following God's laws means you will be blessed! If you would just obey him then you wouldn't have all these bad things in your life!"  And, of course, you hear the same thing from church leadership. Stop living together, THEN I will marry you. Become a Christian and THEN I will baptize your child. Start obeying Jesus and I will stop telling you that your very life is wrong.

Does your partner’s jealousy stop you from seeing friends or family?

In more extreme cases, yes. When friends and family are not "good influences" or are the ones who are "leading you away from Jesus."

Does your partner make you feel like you are wrong, stupid, crazy, or inadequate?

Hahahah! YES! Both God and Christians! 

Has your partner ever scared you with violence or threatening behavior?

I can't even tell you how many times I heard "if you are not where God wants you to be then ANYTHING can happen to you." Also see: The ENTIRE old testament.

Does your partner say, “I will kill myself if you break up with me” or “I will hurt/kill you if you break up with me”?

How about "I'll send you to hell for all of eternity if you leave me?" Does that qualify? SUre, you could say that Jesus said "I will die so we can be together." which is all fine and good, but completely loses all goodness once it adds "And if you refuse me, then eternal suffering and torment for you!"

Does your partner make excuses for the abusive behavior? For example: saying, “It’s because of alcohol or drugs,” or “I can’t control my temper,” or “I was just joking”?

"it's because I love you" would be the one.

To be honest, I just don't know how to get past this. I can't find solace in any doctrines - anything but universalism seems cruel and abusive. For a time I found a home in a very strict lutheran interpretation of law and gospel, but there was just still such an emphasis on hell and punishment/reward (even if it wasn't directly salvation related) that I quickly tired of trying to make that work. I could possibly embrace universalism but I am wary now of everything. Everything.

I suppose that's about how I would feel if I had been with an abusive partner.

I would be wary of every potential partner.

[disclaimer: i do not intend this post to diminish in any way the physical, emotional, verbal abuse that many people endure every single day. for me, to acknowledge abuse in a spiritual sense does not take away from the reality of other kinds of abuse, and i hope that i am not an idiot for thinking so.]

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