Spiritual Abuse Enables Evil
My main abuser was my father; a well-read theologian and occasional Sunday School teacher. One minute he could be quietly studying the Bible, and the next beating his daughter black and blue. The hands he folded in prayer were the hands he used to push me, shake me, and throw me against walls.
But bruises heal. Tears dry. It’s the hurtful lies and scathing words that stab into your mind like splinters for decades.
“If you don’t forgive me, Jesus won’t forgive you.”
“Honor your father; don’t dishonor him by reporting.”
“If you’re angry or depressed, God won’t hear your prayers.”
I remember being taught that if I was a good little girl, didn’t complain, and didn’t tell anyone, my dad would see Jesus in me. Maybe he’d change and become a good father. Terrible family secrets – porn addictions, violence, sexual abuse, and death threats – were covered up in the name of Christ.
This is spiritual abuse. It is the leveraging of the holy Word of God to enable, excuse, and conceal evil. This is a type of blasphemy. It is a coordinated strategy of bad theology, heresy, and lies, designed to call good evil and evil good, and silence the cries of the oppressed.
But my dad wasn’t my only abuser. Several pastors tried to take advantage of me. One pastor, who also called himself a lawyer, helped cover up my dad’s abuse. He tried to involve me in his Bible study, which turned out to be a polygamous cult. He lied to me about what abuse was, and discouraged me from reporting.
As a child, my parents had friends who (unbeknownst to us) were also abusers. A close friend’s dad went to prison for child abuse. The guy who taught me to play piano for Sunday morning worship, was later convicted of molesting his daughter. My dad was known to be intelligent and educated, but he was also known to be sullen, arrogant, and hostile. Church friends who should have known did nothing. Church friends who should have wondered never asked questions. This is church abuse. So what should we know about how to heal from the damage?
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