Happily Abused

Trigger warning: Christian woman’s advice to abused wives reads like a handbook for ascetic self-mortification.

How to Use a Woman’s Faith & Trust to Make Her a Willing Accomplice to Her Own Abuse

Can you say, "Stockholm Syndrome'?

by Vyckie Garrison

After stumbling across yet another piece of alarmingly dangerous advice for abused women of faith titled, Surviving Emotional Abuse Six Steps by Christian author, Darcy Ingraham, I am wishing I had more middle fingers with which to express my extreme irritation. Ack!

I will try to calm down long enough to use my words rather than profane gestures to talk about spiritual abuse.

To begin with the author assumes that only those husbands who abandon their faith become angry, bitter, and abusive – and she offers no help for women whose abusive husbands are fully committed Christians acting in accordance with patriarchal teachings derived from the bible; she quotes random bible verses out of context to convince abused women that they are safe from actual violent abuse so long as they remain close to God; she appears to believe a woman’s display of piety (praying out loud for her abuser and telling him that she is giving him over to the Lord, for example) is the way to truly intimidate her abusive husband and get him to back off; she advises victims not to “make the abuse worse” by reacting to their abusers’ anger (followed by the whiplash-inducing about-face when she admonishes victims to never allow anyone to convince you that the abuse is your fault); and to top it all off, the author encourages abuse victims to take charge of their lives by finding a hobby.

When we write about “surviving” abuse at No Longer Quivering, we mean living through it, getting help, getting away, processing, healing, and moving on with our lives.

To the “Six Steps” writer, “Surviving Emotional Abuse” means living with the abuser and “finding contentment” in a situation which, in fact, should not be tolerated.

If you are constantly exposed to emotional abuse, then you are probably humiliated and and criticized often. You may not be able to change the abuser, but you can make positive changes in and for yourself. Emotional abuse can only hurt you and hold you back if you allow it to. The Lord has a way of using the most difficult times of our lives as the greatest time of growth.

When I was experiencing some struggles of my own, a dear friend reminded me of that truth. She said, “When you have nowhere to turn, but to the Lord, it is then that you experience a great strengthening of your faith and untold spiritual growth.” These words were just what I needed to hear.

“Emotional abuse can only hurt you and hold you back if you allow it to.” Really?

Really?!

I understand that not every abused woman is in a position to immediately leave her abuser – however, the advice in this article goes beyond merely offering trapped women coping strategies – it is encouraging women to believe God has a good purpose for their suffering; an idea which often results in confused and desperate women embracing the abuse and even cooperating in their own oppression.

As we share our stories at NLQ, one question that is frequently asked is, What is spiritual abuse? What distinguishes “spiritual” abuse from regular forms of physical, emotional, and mental abuse?

In spiritual abuse, a person’s faith and ideas about God, the supernatural, and the afterlife, get intermingled and entwined with relational and behavioral choices so that the situation is not only about the way a person thinks, acts, and relates – it is primarily about the condition of your soul.

Let me give you an example from the article:

No one wants to be in an abusive marriage, but if you are a Christian woman the decision to leave or stay is not yours alone. The Lord has a plan for you and if you seek His wisdom, He will show you the way. Just know that if He leads you to remain in the marriage, He will be your strength. In “Our Daily Bread” by RBC Ministries, this sentence brings it home. “Assignments from God always include His enablement.”

Here the author maintains that the decision to stay in or leave an abusive marriage should not only take into consideration unhealthy relationships and safety issues, but must also include “the God factor.”

Abusive situations are disconcerting enough – but when an abused woman is also required to figure out what God would have her to do, the result is an overwhelming entanglement of spiritual discernment, hermeneutics, theology, faith, trust, devotion, spiritual discipline, eternal rewards and judgement, divine intervention, hierarchical authority, angels and demons, sacred vows, and spiritual-mindedness which thoroughly complicates and convolutes and radically reorients the perspective of literally every practical consideration.

The question which the victim asks herself is no longer, “He is hurting me – what should I do?” – instead, it becomes, “He is hurting me, but God loves me and He knows what is best for my life – if I take matters into my own hands, am I really trusting the Lord? Does God have a greater purpose for my suffering? Does God want to use my patient endurance as a witness to draw my husband to Himself? What is more important – my immediate personal safety – or the eternal salvation of my husband’s soul?  Is self-preservation godly – or am I seeking instant gratification and the comfort of the flesh? How will I ever be made pure in the refining fires if I remove myself from the heat? Does the clay say to the Potter, what are you doing with me? Is there any biblical justification for leaving my husband when he hasn’t actually hit me or committed adultery? Have I prayed enough? Is my heart right with God? Is Satan deceiving me into destroying my own family?  Maybe I just need to have more faith and to be long-suffering and try to submit more wholeheartedly and sincerely? What would Jesus do? Would he defend himself? Would he give up and walk away? Would he withhold his love and forgiveness?” … and on and on and around and around … until the woman is thoroughly overwhelmed and paralyzed by indecision. She cannot even say for sure whether or not she’s being abused, and she never gets around to addressing the only truly relevant question: What should I do?

Of course, the victim is given every assurance that God loves her and wants only the best for her and will supernaturally intervene on her behalf – plus, He will provide the strength she needs to endure the abuse:

God loves you so very much and you are of great worth to Him. You must look to Him who created you as the unique and wonderful person that you are; to Him who has a plan for your life. First, trust Him by claiming the promise of Jeremiah 33:3 (KJV), “ Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.” Then trust Him to see your through with the words of Philippians 4:13 (KJV), “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

The most insidious spiritual abuse occurs when Believers begin to not only “find contentment” in their abusive circumstances but to find spiritual meaning and divine purpose in their sufferings. This sort of mental gymnastics can easily manifest as a form of Stockholm Syndrome when victims who believe that they have no options – no way out – delude themselves into feeling they do have a certain amount of control when they “choose” to embrace, support and defend their abuser. It is oddly empowering to an abused person to say, “This is what I want – yes, it may be painful, but it is actually beneficial to my spiritual growth. I thank God for this and rejoice in my sufferings because in the end, it all brings glory to my Savior!”

Insert puking smiley here.

It is at this acute degree of absurdity that the spiritual abuse victim will begin to participate in and even facilitate and inflict abuse upon herself. After all, she “reasons” (though in truth, little of this dynamic is consciously understood) that if God wills her suffering, it must be right and ultimately good, and therefore, why would she want to alleviate or prevent it? Rather – she looks heavenward for the strength to endure and her mind seeks the eternal vantage point from which her present trials seem petty and insignificant.

She stops looking for a way to escape the pain, and instead – she learns to live with it, welcome it, and even thank God for it.

Yes, reading this Christian writer’s irresponsible and dangerous advice to abused women made my blood boil. I feel angry  and anxious and re-traumatized. Most disturbingly, I also feel disoriented and flustered because as I read the article – which I could easily imagine myself writing only a few years ago (only, unlike the author, I would have encouraged women to emulate Jesus’ example of martyrdom) – all the old faith-based confusion crept back in to muddle my thinking and I found myself second-guessing everything I’ve discovered about reality, mutuality, boundaries, self-preservation, equality … My brain momentarily reverted to its religiously-conditioned comfort zone of self-abnegation and the abdication of choice and positive action in favor of “spiritual” rationalizations for hand-wringing and overwrought inaction.

Ugh. I hate that. ‹(ô¿ô)›

Comments open below

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

About Vyckie Garrison
  • madame

    Aaaaaack!!!!!
    When FIL and Dh were trying to impose their will “from god”, of course, on me, I remember I started out trying to fight the whole thing “in the faith”. After about 6 years, when I found I was losing my mind and becoming very bitter against God, I stepped out of the church (which was encouraging me to “seek God”, submit, make FIL my project, etc….) and began seeing things clearly again. I saw my responsibility to protect my family. I began to feel strong again and I came to the point where I could say NO.
    It’s sad when the church is so confused it will encourage the body to just live with cancer.
    Funny thing is, some of the advice is good, just not in abusive family situations!!!

  • madame

    One more thing: These books teach fear, not confidence. Fear drives abused people to stay. Fear that if they leave, they will be going against God’s will and He will surely punish them. It’s all masked as confidence that God is there and will help them and all that stuff, but when you dig down deep enough you find the root of fear.

  • shadowspring

    Thank you for writing this article, Vyckie. It needs to be widely disseminated and read by every religious woman in a bad marriage.

    I read a novel when I was a teen about the Illuminati, and the author, poking fun at conspiracy theories everywhere, gave the name to one of the Illuminati’s sinister plots: Operation Mindf**k. At the end of the novel, the narrator-conspirator reveals that even this novel is part of Operation Mindf**k! Bwahahahaha.

    I feel like that should be the name of the doctrine common to many religions called “the Sawvrnety of Gawd” (that’s how it is said in the South). It’s not only a fundamentalist doctrine, not even an exclusively Christian doctrine. I think even the Hindus sneak it in as karma, and Buddhists as the inevitable suffering of the human condition, I know Muslims defer to whatever is as “the will of Allah”. It is the most paralyzing belief ever, that everything that is happening to you is happening by the will of God, so that anything you do to change what’s happening, some religious leader can define as rebellion.

    The thing is, the whole idea of rebellion against God, whose will is defined as “what happens” is a mindf**k. If whatever happens is the will of God, then a smart person will realize that in fact, God will be good with whatever you do then. Abusers in all walks of religion: pastors, pedophiles, husbands, men and women in any position of authority, seem to subconsciously figure that out. They do what they want, with no questioning of conscience, and demand that others suck it up and take it because it is God’s will that they are in authority over you, and God’s will that you submit and obey.

    Double ughs.

    You know that I am still a believer, but I do not believe in the “Sawvrenty of Gawd” as is commonly taught. I believe in Open Theism, that people have real choices, and that “what happens” happens because of time, circumstance, location and (most importantly) because humans accept it or cause it. We can also do our best to change it. I think it is the only morally upright thing to do: accept responsibility for our own lives, and work to make the world as just and enjoyable as it lies within our power to influence in our little corner of it.

    The Sawvrenty of Gawd? Really? So, why invent things, practice medicine, study nutrition? I mean, if these people were consistent in their thinking, why have seat belts and traffic lights? My grandmother’s brother was killed in a car accident in the 30s, standing on the side runner of a Model T Ford when it flipped. If that was the will of God, then why did car designers ditch the side runner?

    Or do they see it like the horror movie “Final Destination”? We are allowed to try to change our lives, but God will petulantly hunt us down with death by other means until He finally outsmarts us? The whole doctrine collapses pretty quickly under intellectual scrutiny, but people still hold onto it.

    A 3 yr old girl was killed in my state yesterday in a tragic accident. The children were playing in the churchyard cemetery waiting for VBS to start, and a granite cross fell on the young child, crushing her and killing her almost instantly in front of all the other little children.

    The cognitive dissonance of the teenager speaking on the ten o’clock news was painful. He spoke,”It’s just a tragic accident. It could have happened to anyone.” he said, which of course isn’t totally true. The next words spoken on the news was the pastor’s press statement, “We don’t know why God called her home so soon and cut her life short.” Mindf**k.

    Which is it? Accident or the will of God? Should maybe people not be allowed to install giant granite crosses without proper anchoring, or should all tombstones be ground level or no higher than two feet? Should young children not be allowed to play in old cemeteries? Is this really the “will of God” or is it “a tragic accident that could happen to anyone”?

    Ah, religion. You are so tricksy.

  • tori

    Hello fellow victoria! I also found the article very disturbing. I actually messaged the author, briefly outlining my own history of abuse, in vague hopes that she might understand how downright DANGEROUS her advice is. I doubt it, but we can only hope……

  • Rebecca

    From what you wrote, I don’t know what you define as abuse. Not all difficult marriages are abusive, and just because a marriage is difficult doesn’t mean it should end.

  • Moonlit Night

    This would be why I am very grateful that my abuser had given up on religion for her own sake. It would have been a lot harder to fight back and get out if I had believed that God wanted this or that I had to endure it to get to Heaven. It was still a pretty effective trap without threats of cosmic justice, but at least I could see a little light!

  • Sunny

    Sometimes God answers a prayer for strength to endure abuse this way: Stop enduring, get out now and don’t look back. I was never in an abusive marriage — I got out before finding myself trapped into that situation. But my upbringing convinced me that I never, ever knew exactly what was right and that if I would pray hard enough and have enough faith, God would tell me what to do. If I didn’t feel that certainty, then obviously I hadn’t prayed enough. And, of course, that ‘certainty’ would be to follow the instructions of fundamentalism. I left the church, but it was years before I understood that my misery was all the certainty I’d ever needed. I consider myself a woman of faith. I have a deep spiritual life and pray daily. But that old way of seeing and living — that was never part of God’s plan; it was created by men and perpetuated by women who bought into that sick way of life.

  • shadowspring

    Here is a link to a Christian organization dedicated to helping heal vctims of abuse and their abusers:

    http://www.lifeskillsintl.org/RedFlags.html

    This Christian organization defines abuse as:
    “Physical Abuse: Any touch not given in love, respect, and dignity.
    Emotional Abuse: Any communication, admonition, reprimand, or reproof that does not uplift, edify, or bring conflict resolution.

    The interactive Power and Control Wheel also helps to clearly define abuse:
    http://www.lifeskillsintl.org/Power_and_Control_Wheel.html

    Much actual abuse in Christian families is condoned and in some cases encouraged by false doctrines, usually built upon the epistles and the Old Testament while ignoring the words of Christ.

    “A new command I give, that you love one another as I have loved you” is impossible to use to justify abuse, but scriptures about authority, submission, obedience, and violent correction (found in OT and epistles) ARE used to justify and in some cases demand abuse. When families have abusive power hierarchies (which Jesus declared “it shall not be so among you!”) lauded from the pulpit each week, sometimes two and three times a week, and reinforced by the Christian radio and publishing empires, a whole lot of abuse becomes accepted as normal.

    I hope that is not your situation, Rebecca, but if it is, you are hardly alone. Life Skills is a good place to start for help, if you are looking.

  • madame

    I agree that not every difficult marriage should end, BUT the situations that are making the marriage (and family life) so difficult SHOULD be dealt with in practical and reasonable ways. My in-law’s marriage is a perfect model of abuse and IMO, it should have ended decades ago. My marriage has been through some very difficult times. I don’t want it to end, but we sure will work on our differences to make our life as harmonious and worth living as possible.

  • igotout

    i asked a female pastor what to do when my sons father was abusive and horrible to me. we weren’t even really in a relationship, as he had decided i wasn’t worthy (what a joke). he just lived with me, mooched off me, and then treated me like crap. she said, ‘just pray. god will tell you what to do.’ um, no. i’m pretty sure that god doesn’t say anything, since god isn’t real. if you DO hear voices telling you what to do, i suggest a therapist and medication. at any rate, i said, ‘screw you, lady.’ and went home to pack a ‘bug out’ bag and then i called the cops on his ass. he went to jail, i got custody of our son, and he’s no where near us anymore. f**k that, ‘ask god’ crap. get out if you are being abused. staying is not an option. ever.

  • shadowspring

    I don’t know what other people mean when they say, “God will tell you what to do.” but when I was saying it, what I meant was that in time you will KNOW what’s right for you to do. When you take out the religious language (not only Christianese but other religions have it too), and just say what you mean, life gets so much easier.

    Of course, that assumed that everyone puzzled problems out like I did and eventually settled on a course of action that seemed not only right, but right no matter how the chips fell after making it. I now know that is not true for everyone. Some people second guess all their decisions, and other people are so confused they can’t really make decisions.

    I’m glad you made good decisions for yourself and your son. I hope that any advice I give people in the future gives them confidence to do whatever they think is necessary, and resources to help them no matter what they decide. The most important thing is to empower abuse victims to make decisions for themselves guilt-free.

  • Sandy

    What this woman says is hogwash because she is advocating sin. Any abused person who stays in an abusive relationship is commiting suicide and the abuser is commiting murder. It is is sinful and irresponsible to stay in such dangerous conditions. Leave.

  • Jewel

    This kind of teaching is exactly what kept me in bondage for years!! It makes me so mad. I am still struggling with the confusion and guilt even though I am physically out. It take a lot of time to reprogram your mind. I am trying so hard not to lose my faith, but everything I believed has been shaken to the core.

    I don’t trust anything from the Christian bookstores any more. I used to love to peruse the aisles there in my very limited free time, and just pick up books and read. I always spent any gift money on a new Christian book and constantly sought guidance from the latest “Christian living” book. During my separation and upcoming divorce from my abusive husband, I tried to continue doing this for guidance. I found that there was no wisdom there, only more of the same oppression, that would encourage me to go back to my abuser, and continue to make it my task, my responsibility to “deal with it” and “change him”. Now, I can’t even stand to go in a Christian book store. It is like walking into a den of vipers.

  • Africaturtle

    Hmmm… What about the kids?? the author honestly expects you to save up your own money ( which you got from what job?) to start a new hobby even though it willmake your husband rage when you tell him what you’re doing. So do you do this when the kids are up so they can learn a new list of explicatives and see “how” the vase got bustes…. Or wait till their in bed and hope the extra noise doesnt wake them up? i know i always have extra-creative bursts of energy right after getting reemed for a new idea. // sarcasm//

    A while back i was actually looking for advice on ” coping”. Not escaping. im kinda glad i didnt find this one, it only would have contributed to the confusion. I really think that it is impossible to understand the insanity of an abusive relationship if you havent lived throuh it yourself. I mean, shesuggests answering accusations of angry blame with the line ” i’m not taking responsability for that”. If the man backed off after that my vuess is your dealing with someone who actually knows how to be reasonable . Can any of you others on here back me up when i say that’s NOT the way it goes down with an abusive man???? It’s not. Quite. That. Simple.

  • Jewel

    I can totally back you up, africaturtle!!

    The marriage counselor we saw told me I should put my hand up when my husband started to get angry or mean, and say, “Stop. That’s enough.”. Yeah, right!!!!! That doesn’t even work with a child, much less an abusive husband!! Give me a break!!!!!!

  • vyckiegarrison

    Exactly, Africaturtle! This author’s advice seems terribly naive. When I was reading, I had the same thought as you – she doesn’t seem to have any actual experience of dealing with an abusive husband. Tell him, “I’m turning you over to God” – ?? Sounds like a good way, not to intimidate him, but to piss him off and invite more abuse.

  • vyckiegarrison

    “Stop. That’s enough.” – ?? Wow. Now there’s the advice of someone who is accustomed to being in a position of authority.

    The scary part is – the people dishing out this sort of “expert advice” to an abused woman are completely clueless to the reality of her situation – and if she follows their suggestions, the abuser is likely to respond with an ever scarier display of his power and control over her. :(

  • Maggy

    One type of abuse Vyckie described is emotional abuse. Women who experience this are put down, are told their opinions don’t matter, are humiliated or are otherwise dehumanized. The way that spiritual abuse comes into play is when these women are taught that there must be some sort of divine reason for their suffering. Removing the source of the suffering is seen as interfering with God’s will.

    I don’t think Vyckie is intimating that all difficult marriages are abusive or that a marriage must be abandoned when it gets hard. She is railing against this book which doesn’t give strategies for coping with abuse but rather encourages women to choose their piety over their own personal safety when they’re considering getting out of a dangerous relationship.

  • Lisa

    I haven’t, and won’t, read the article you are referring to but I will say that I agree with you assessment of it. I have been out of an emotionally abusive marriage to a Christian man for almost 4 years and re-married to a non-abuser for almost 2 years. I am *still* traumatized by how I was treated and the advice I was given in church when my first marriage was failing. I wrote an article about it myself if you are interested: http://nybride710.hubpages.com/hub/How-the-Christian-Church-is-Failing-Abused-Women
    In a nutshell, I had to changed myself to tolerate his crap and win him over, just like you said. Leaving him and that church was the best thing I ever did.

  • Sandy

    Very good blog, Lisa.I plan to read more posts. The church needs to get real, staying in an abusive marriage is suicide.

  • wanderer

    Great article. One of the many things that bothers me is that she sounds like she’s saying that there may be some truth in the accusations of the abuser that you can take and learn to better yourself. This person obviously has no understanding of abuse.

  • Madamoyzelle

    I also stayed way past the time I should have left.

    #1. Now I realize that he absolutely hated my guts. I always laugh at women who are beaten black and blue, or who are verbally abused so badly that they duck their heads like beaten dogs, but say, “Way deep down, he loves me.” Nope. He hates your guts. Leave.

    #2. It is extremely possible that he treated me as badly as he did because he wanted ME to leave him. He didn’t have the guts, and he didn’t want to “be the bad guy.” He wanted to be able to tell people, “Look. I’m such a nice man. But SHE left me! Can you believe it?!” Hence all the screaming, the denying of access to money, the insults, the absence of any affection. The demands for perfection. Leave.

    #3. Life becomes absolutely impossible. He threatened to quit his job and “stay home and not work like your mommy does.” Our little girl came to me frightened and said, “but how will we eat, if nobody has a job?” At that point, when he threatened our child’s security, I made plans to LEAVE. And I did LEAVE.

    And I missed him and our family life every day for years, and felt terrible guilt for breaking up the family. And a couple years later even asked him about getting back together “for the sake of our daughter.” And he said, “No.”

    Yes, I was that stupid. Because everytime we spent an hour together, I remembered exactly why I LEFT, and that it was a VERY GOOD DECISION.

    Is that difficult enough for you, Rebecca? Incidentally: What exactly, satisfies your definition of “difficult?”

  • JeseC

    Of course there will be some truth in it. We all have our faults, and it’s not like an abuser won’t pick up on those. But this kind of advice is kind of like telling a rape victim “well if you hadn’t walked home alone you’d have been fine.” That may be true, but….that does NOT, EVER justify what happened. No amount of your faults will justify HIS abuse. Ever.

  • http://peterscrossstation.wordpress.com/ Shannon LC Cate

    I think what makes me the saddest about this kind of rhetoric is that it isn’t really biblical. As someone who has studied the Bible for my entire life (since I could speak and ask my mother questions about religion), on a personal level, at evangelical churches, in academic settings, at Catholic schools, at an Ivy League divinity school, as a teacher of Bible classes in my (Episcopal) churches, etc. etc. etc. I quite honestly do not believe the Bible calls women to submit to men. It is men in certain religious settings who tell women what the Bible says (or how to read what it says, how to understand it, how to proof-text their way to what they want to believe or away from what they want to ignore) making such claims. That is tautological thinking (circular reasoning), defined.
    When people tell me they live their lives according to the Bible and that is why they do things that look, from the outside to be unjust, unloving, hurtful and yes, even abusive, I am always rather baffled, because it is obvious to me that they haven’t read the whole Bible or learned anything about its original meanings, its original contexts, its original languages etc. because if they had, they would see how complex, rather than simple the Bible really is.
    Not to mention, they would find out that we are called about 100X more to economic justice–practically to socialism if you try to find a modern equivalent to selling your property and giving the proceeds to the church to redistribute to the poor as needed–than we are to hate women, hate people in same-sex loving relationships, hate outsiders, foreigners, people of other faiths, etc.
    Scratch the surface of the Bible and patriarchy isn’t really the main point at all. Marriage has virtually no place there–unless we’re talking about polygamy, selling daughters, taking concubines, etc.

  • http://tossandripple.blogspot.com/ Carol

    Excellent article. I also like your description regarding “spiritual” abuse and how deeply it goes.

    Another thought hit me while reading this…that is…women can also be emotionally and spiritually abusive to their husbands. I used to be one of those women. :( He wasn’t living up to the standard of being the spiritual head of the house. (Long story, of course). :(
    I am thankful those days (and beliefs) are behind us.

    Also part of this paragraph really hit me: “…Most disturbingly, I also feel disoriented and flustered because as I read the article – which I could easily imagine myself writing only a few years ago (only, unlike the author, I would have encouraged women to emulate Jesus’ example of martyrdom) – all the old faith-based confusion crept back in to muddle my thinking and I found myself second-guessing everything I’ve discovered about reality, mutuality, boundaries, self-preservation, equality … My brain momentarily reverted to its religiously-conditioned comfort zone of self-abnegation and the abdication of choice and positive action in favor of “spiritual” rationalizations for hand-wringing and overwrought inaction. …”

    I’ve been going through similar the past couple days. You articulated what I’ve been going through so very well. The disorietnation has dissipated some, and I know it will end. It’s not like it’s the first time it’s happened…and I doubt will be the last.

    Thanks again for the article….

  • http://nonais.org Esbee

    I am so sorry for all the suffering these women had to go through in order to obey “God’s law”.
    “Men take the rules of men and make them to be God’s laws”. is from the new testament somewhere so God knows that people are too willing to ascribe to God what God never said or meant in His word.

    BE careful of following anything but God’s will and plan for your life. Too many christians get in trouble following what someone else claims is “the only way.” Only Jesus claimed to be the only way and He left 2 commands to follow…love God and love your neighbor. The rest of how you live your life, how many kids you have, birth control or not is left up to you and your relationship with God.

    If you want to have lots of children it is because YOU and husband want to have lots of children and that you can afford it.

    God does not make “cookie cutter Christians”, meaning each Christian has to follow the individual path God has laid out for them….It is a personal relationship and we do not always follow closely, sometimes not at all. The problem is that sometimes we think that what God wants in someone else’s life is what He must want for us and then we mistakenly try to put those ways of living on ourselves as being the only way.

    And following God’s will for other people can often have bad results.

    I.e. Andrea Yates (both her and husband followed quiverful blindly) who drowned her 5 children. Her doctor told her to take more time between children so she could mentally/physically and emotionally heal. They did not listen and she went off the deep end, now the woman is in jail, her children dead, her husband divorced her and remarried and now has a child. Where were the promised blessings of quiverful for them?

    The church view of families over the centuries has changed. Obviously there was no birth control until modern times, so large families were a way of life and very helpful in subsistence living as more hands meant more help raising crops and tending herds.

    In the mid 20th century, dedicated American missionaries chose to have only a few children and often left them behind for others to raise as they went into sometimes dangerous mission fields. That was considered truly following God to give up your children to follow God into the mission field. When did that stop becoming “God’s way”. How did those missionaries, seeking out the will of God, miss out on the message of quiverful?

    Chaplain to the U.S. Senate, Peter Marshall, had only one child? Was he not following God? Was he wrong for only preaching following God through a relationship with Jesus Christ ? How did he miss out on the message of having large large families?

    Quiverful also is closely linked to Bill Gothard, who has a reputation for putting legalism (following lots and lots of so called rules to earn God’s favor. But no one can follow all those rules which has left many feeling they have failed and are worthless. Gothard has redefined many scriptures to say what they were not meant to say. See recoveringgrace.com for more info on the man and his mistakes and the stories of those hurt by his ministry.

    Isn’t it interesting how God does not repeat Himself? Here are a few examples of the many One-Time-Only Wonders….There was only one Abraham who by faith believed God’s promise to make him a nation (and he had only one son from Sarah), only one Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt and witnessed the one and only parting of the Red Sea, only one Noah who rode out the flood with all the animals on the one and only ark, just one David who using only one stone, brought down a giant. And one Mary who was visited by the one Holy Spirit to become pregnant with the one and only Jesus who proclaims that he is the only One by whom salvation can be had. None of them attended any Gothard seminars and large home taught families was their only way of life because there was no birth-control. Nor were there cars nor electric lights back then but we use them now without feeling sinful. And God has made only one YOU and one ME…an incredible distinct personality found lost and wandering that He will paint and frame into one masterpiece! And that masterpiece will look like no other

  • Colette

    You cannot reason with an unreasonable person. Period. And it is NOT quite…that…simple. I agree 100%. I’m so glad to be out of my abusive relationship, but still struggle with the effects of 14 years of spiritual abuse resulting from involvement in one Pentecostal church. Only recently did I turn to the Internet to discover so many others. It infuriates and saddens me all at the same time! I still feel like I’m coming out of a fog, hazy, like I was definitely brainwashed. If you are being abused, get rid of all of the spiritual reasoning/non-sense advice from so-called “brothers” and “sisters” in Christ and get honest with your own gut-level intuitive existence as a human being and hear your pain. BIG CLUE: if you have to ask someone, or yourself “…Am I being abused?” — the answer is a resounding yes! And you’re not going to pray-it away, hobby-it away, faith-it away, sing-it away, “be-a-good-wife-and-love-your-husband”-it away (yes, a licensed ordained minister told me that, my local pastor at the time), work-it away, exercise-it away, teach a Sunday school class-it away, be a praise and worship leader-it away, teach in the children’s ministry-it away….you cannot ever escape your own skin. If you are being abused, it is your God-given right to flee the abuse. Do not apologize to anyone for making the choice to live a sane, healthy, abuse-free life.

  • Lotti

    My Australian story: My mother and father separated from their engagement when I was only a year or so old. I had been an accident and the relationship seemed fairly doomed to not working. My mother, facing single parenthood in the 80s with an unexpectedly early child (though loved), unsupporting parents-in-law (as such) and an extremely helpful but never faithful or trusting mother, married an Englishman within a few years and moved to England with him. He became abusive to her, and to me. I don’t know the extent of his abusive to her as she has never detailed it to me and I only have vague memories of fights leading to police visits at night time. I suspect he may have sexually abused me but I really can’t know; I know he was hitting me under the pretext of discipline for some time while she was working. When it got to the point of leaving bruises mum realised what he was doing. Apparently she had been willing to put up with it to herself, but not to me. She stormed up to him and threatened to kill him if he touched me again, and he believed her.

    AT least that’s what she’s told me. :) I’m not sure if it’s true, because she has both a flair for dramatic retelling and absolute determination on my behalf, so it could go either way. At any rate, she recruited her employers and a local bank to her side. Her lolly shop job pretended to extend her working hours while she got a second job, also with people who protected her (lied on her behalf). The second, secret salary went into a secret, private bank account with no letters or calls to he home address about it. Finally when there was enough money, we flew home to Australia and her family and friends. Via Disneyland, America no less.

    Carol, abuse victims need to be heard, it’s so important. But people like you who have been the abusers are also so important for true discourse! For me, so many aspects of spousal abuse correspond with bullying by children and teenagers, including the fact that the bullies and abusers are humans too.

    I would never agree with this rubbish about “adjusting your husband to better himself through Christ” or however they put it- for the victim, the course is absolutely to protect oneself by leaving. And I do think that there are some people who are sadistic and manipulative and will always do what they want to those around them.

    But for so many the rage and hate is changeable. There are two sides to these abusive relationships- the victim deserves out but I think society deserves the chance to work to change the behaviours of the perpetrator. And we do also need to recognise that women can be the abusers too, because ignoring that is only another kind of blindness to pain.

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  • Michael C. Scott

    Spiritual abuse is a two-way street. My best friend from high school was a complete emotional wreck after 11 years of marriage to a “Christian” woman. He was in tears on the phone when he drove here from Denver, and it took six months or so of him living with us for him to appreciate what a normal family is like. His now ex-wife wasn’t physically threatening; Glenn is literally built like a gorilla, but she spiritually bullied him.

    On the other hand, my father spiritually bullied my mother for 18 years, and my sister and the dog and I were at Ground Zero for that. The dog didn’t know what was wrong, but he was scared out of his wits and came back to our rooms to cry. Our father used to bully my sister; he’d pick on her at the dinner table until she was in tears, and then make fun of her for crying until she would run to her room.
    He’s a university professor at Cambridge, England.

  • Beth

    It is VERY important to point out that these abusers are NOT Christians. They twist Bible verses completely out of context to try to justify their horrible behavior. The Bible clearly commands men to love their wives, so much that they would give their lives for them. Abuse is absolutely not loving, and those jerks seem to ignore that fact. My dad is a minister, and in 40 years of ministry, he has NEVER advised a woman to stay in an abusive marriage. He is extremely outspoken against men who try to use scripture to justify being complete jerks to their wives. It is absolutely not God’s plan for these women to stay in these dangerous situations. Anyone who says otherwise needs to shut their ignorant, stupid mouths.

  • laura

    Just read the words of Christ. Don’t follow another “woman’s” advice or looser pastor or even confused husband for that matter. Even the words of paul are not the same as the words of Christ. Where in those red words does he say “submit” to husband…….

    NLQ could actually be spiritually abusive in and of itself. Studies show that woman who are departed from 1st spouse are more likely to suffer emotional trauma, need assistance from psychiatric counselors, get involved in yet another abusive relationship and more. Go figure that out.

    Perhaps a temporary solution is something magical called Natural Family Planning and forgiveness ;)

  • Ambaa

    This is a great complement to my post about selecting gurus/spiritual teachers with great care. I spoke a little about spiritual abuse there. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu/2013/04/beware-gurus/ I’m going to share a link to this article with my followers!

  • chomps

    I just wanted to comment and say that, especially your final paragraph, was the most beautiful way I’ve ever heard Christianity be described. Every person is unique, and we should celebrate those differences, but I’ve never seen someone bring those inherent truths so fully into partnership with God/Jesus. I wish more Christians thought this way.

  • Uriel238

    Why would it matter if in the opinion of some they are not Christians? All denominations of Christianity decide which scripture is literal and which is is allegory. All decide what to focus on and what not to. But the idea that they can point to a bible and say “this, this confirms my opinion and therefore it must prevail” is the danger of Christianity, or really, any revealed religion. (e.g. Karma is frequently used to blame the destitute and disabled for their conditions, based on some alleged evil in a past life.)

    Even our legislators and representatives in what is supposed to be a secular country cite scripture to their purpose, often when they can’t justify their position through reason and rationality, based on human values such as reciprocity. And even they will sometimes debate who is worthy of the title “Christian” and who isn’t.

    A Christian is anyone who claims so. And yes. That means some Christians are jackasses.

  • Austin Covello

    Actually, what’s really fun is going into a Christian Bookstore and demanding books by Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. I just love the barely-controlled fury they have when I do that.

  • Jesse Gunn

    “A Christian is anyone who claims so.”

    That is absolutely false, and in the context of these put-on-a-good-front abusive religious families.. chilling. The Bible gives fairly clear examples of excommunication, and, almost predicting this defense that you can call yourself whatever you want,

    3For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.4In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus,5I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus…12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?13But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.

    Notice the very clear structure: we are to judge those inside the church, the unrepentant of grave sins are cast out, God judges those outside the church.

    and as far as it’s consequences go, “whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

    We should be confronting the sins of these abusers rather than covering them up, subjecting them to church discipline, if necessary. God help us for turning our backs to the weakest of these.

    No, you can not just call yourself a Christian based on your own claims, unless by “Christian” you mean “someone who makes up their own religion that is in no way based on the Bible, especially anything Paul said.” Abusers cannot just call themselves Christians and stick their tongues out and go about their impudent, sinful, destruction of their families, at least not while enjoying the privilege of being allowed in a church. it’s no coincidence that the proponents of systematic abuse also fight to say no one can dare question their own right to define themselves. “A christian is anyone who claims so” fits into that thinking.

  • Lettie131

    What you have said, so far, is interesting but you have not got to your point?

  • Uriel238

    Simply ejecting cavilers doesn’t solve the problem, unless your sole interest is to preserve the good name of your church, and even then, too many evictions starts to look conspicuously elitist. If news-media is to be believed, banishment is reserved specifically for gays, abortion patients and rape victims, and not for bullies, hypocrites, fraudsters, or domestic abusers so long as these people are also ideologues who toe the congregational line while in their Sunday best.

    My understanding of Christian doctrine is that the parish is supposed to confront and forgive blasphemers without condition, and then guide them back into the fold: Jesus’ message is about mercy and redemption, not justice. This is not to say that justice is out of place: some people just plain need shooting, but that is not Jesus’ way.

    All to often, banishment by a parish is directed without, not within. Most denominations refuse to accept Mormonism has legitimate Christianity, and the Roman Catholic Church and the major protestant denominations do enjoy calling each other heretics and denying each other salvation. This, really, comes down to the No True Scotsman fallacy: In that case, you’re simply re-defining Christianity for your own purposes, and there is no cause to accept that definition over any other, including those according to those rivals you have disparaged.

  • fiona64

    Studies show that woman who are departed from 1st spouse are more likely
    to suffer emotional trauma, need assistance from psychiatric
    counselors, get involved in yet another abusive relationship and more.

    Really late to this party, but I would surely like to see a source for those “studies.”

  • Mapule Pauline Tshabalala

    I have gone through seem tough situations like these and now I’m glad I happily single from two divorce whom my ex-husbands were Christians, I blogged and posted some thing on this topic and this is is enough, and we can’t be sugarcoating things because these man are Christians, it can not be right because they are Christians. I’m a newly survivor of abuse and I’m still mad at all this. And my last man had also ripped off everything including financially. I had find ways to make ends meet, although I have a job but I was in so much dept, and now I also help helpless women like I was do it for them selves too, find me here http://www.empowernetwork.com/mapule


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