This man’s story from NPR’s “Story Corps” brought a tear to my eye. Bryan Wilmoth and his 7 siblings were raised in a brutally religious family. Upon finding a love letter from another boy to Bryan, his father abandoned his 15 year old son in the middle of a field with a 5 dollar bill. Rather than transform his father’s hatred into more hatred aimed at different targets, Bryan chose to grow up into a loving man instead.
Bryan missed his siblings most of all and attempted to contact them. He learned that their father was beating them so they didn’t “catch gay” from talking to their brother. He then contacted all of them as they became estranged from their spiritually abusive father either by running away, being kicked out or moving away from the family home.
His brother Micheal at first admittedly didn’t want to learn anything about gay people. He says he had “fear based beliefs” from his father. But gradually Bryan won him over. He became so proud of his brother that he would introduce his brother to any gay person that he met.
The most touching part of Bryan’s story was when he met his youngest brother Luke for the first time. He had never met his brother before because he was born after Bryan was abandoned by father. He helped his brother get started in college. His brother mouthed the words “I love you” to him when he left his dorm room after helping him get moved in. Bryan called his brother Michael crying that he got to be a big brother.
Bryan’s story shows how difficult it is to maintain prejudice and bigotry once you to get to know a person you have been raised to hate. Love is more powerful than hate. Hate, intolerance,ignorance, and fear broke this family apart. Bryan’s love rebuilt his family. Stories like his give me hope that humans are loving by default. Hate dehumanizes both the hater and the hated. Bryan wasn’t treated like a human being because of his father’s hatred of homosexuals. His father’s hatred transformed him into an inhuman monster.
As a survivor of spiritual abuse, I think it is good to see stories where the survivor goes on to lead a loving, productive life. It detracts from the stigma that abuse victims may be scarred by their experiences, and negates stereotypes. If you would like to read more inspiring stories from survivors of spiritual abuse, Vyckie Garrison started a blog network for women recovering from spiritual abuse. She escaped the “Quiverfull” movement. In a search for other secular resources on this topic, I found that there are a number of religious-based resources on the topic even one by CBN. Unfortunately CBN runs a worldwide ministry that helps people on the condition of proselytizing.
There is of course, Darrel Ray’s Recovering from Religion, which is focused on people transitioning from religion to non-belief. It would be nice to know if they have support specifically for survivors of spiritual abuse.