Never going back

Never going back April 6, 2012

Trigger Warning for Abuse

I used to be in an abusive relationship.

Once, I broke up with him, and he threatened to kill me for it.

I was in his car, and I told him I didn’t want to be with him anymore. He decided that if I wouldn’t be with him, I  couldn’t be with anyone. So he gave me the choice:

Change my mind and stay with him, or he would crash the car into a telephone pole.

I forced him to take me home that day by threatening him with a crowbar I found on the floor of his car. But there were more threats. And eventually I gave in.

I chose to stay with him, and the threats stopped.

Because he “loved me.”

And as long as I loved him back, he would never hurt me.

No one can stand here and tell me that my ex-boyfriend gave me free will that day. No one will ever convince me that I had a real choice in this situation. My options were stay with a cruel, vengeful man, or die.

No one can convince me that this was love.

In fact, I don’t think any of you would even try.

We recognize this kind of behavior in humans as cruel and hateful. We’d tell our sisters, our daughters, our friends to run from men (or women) like this.

But what if God acts like an abusive boyfriend?

What if God gives us only the choice of a life spent with a cruel, vengeful God or a life spent in hell?

We call that free will.

What if God uses violence to punish those God loves when those people do not love God back?

We say, “God’s ways are higher than our ways.”

Yet we still say God is love.

God is good.

But this God that the Evangelical church taught us to believe in, if this God came to earth as a human, he would have been my abusive ex-boyfriend.

But I don’t believe in that God anymore.

I believe in a different God.

My God did come to earth as a human. But that human didn’t look at all like my abusive ex-boyfriend.

That human was Jesus.

And Jesus loved. Real love–not this controlling, abusive, hate that we’re so used to assigning to God. Real love.

Believe in the vengeful Evangelical God if you want. Tell me I’m wrong in the comments section. I know some of you will.

But I know what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship. I know. And I can tell you what one looks like. A relationship with the Evangelical God? Yeah, that’s abusive, and I’ve escaped that abusive relationship.

I’m never going back.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Please don’t misconstrue this question as a rhetorical argument. I’m not arguing and I don’t disagree with you here. What I am curious to know, though, is what you think happens with those who have no love for God and could not endure his presence without misery – if at all.

    I feel like I covered the options in a post of mine a while back, if you’re looking for clear-cut categories (see here: I find myself very persuaded by Jerry Walls’s concept of optimal grace. Or perhaps you have an answer that defies this way of framing the question. I have a lot of respect for your thought and your honesty, and would be interested to hear you work it through.

    • I think that’s a good overview. Not sure what I believe–right now I just know what I DON’T believe (I don’t believe in the eternal torture hell). But I’ll think about it some more and I have the C.S. Lewis book mentioned on my book list. Maybe that will give me insight.

  • I don’t think you’re wrong. 🙂

  • Deanna D.

    I wholeheartedly agree, Sarah. If God were like that, we should all be picking up our crowbars and demanding He let us out of the car, for if we do not have the option to come to Him freely, then it is not free will. I have a hard time accepting Part A of the Easter story. Part B is easy: God loves the world, sends His only Son so that all who believe in the Son receive the free gift of eternal life. It is Part A that I wrestle with, for Jesus wouldn’t have to have died for us if it were not true that God demands death (and eternal torment?) for every person who lives, because every human being who lives will make mistakes. We even call it ‘being human.’ These are difficult contrasts to resolve.

  • abekoby

    I think we can also extend the metaphor to say that, at least for some of us, leaving behind the idea of an abusive God is an experience of fear and worry. For those who have been indoctrinated for much of their life, it’s difficult to leave behind the feelings that if you give up on the idea of a judgmental God that not only God but other people are condemning you for questioning and coming to a different conclusion. Having the strength and support to break through to the other side is a freeing experience though, and eventually, I’m sure you get to the point where you wonder why you valued those beliefs so much in the first place.

    • those are really good thoughts, Abe. I agree.

  • brambonius

    Scary analogy, but I think it works… I’m glad that not all the evangelicals that I know do believe in the way you describe, but I do recognise the problem all too well still…

    Some people are trying very hard to persuade me and everyone that their version of Christianity in all its details is the only right ‘biblical’ doctrine and that everything else will lead you to hell.Mostly their forms of Christianity are so indefensible that if they would be able to convince me that what they believe is the real Christian faith I’d just be unable to believe anything of it… It makes no sense for a lot of reasons, and the ‘abusive relationship’ part of it is one of the more dangerous parts…

    The ‘point of no return’ idea is something that I recognise too btw

  • Christopher Williams

    Actually, to build on what “brambonius” writes, I would say that _some_ Christians have invested so heavily in the God of vengefulness and exclusivity that they NEED the threat of hell to compel belief and compliance–including compliance with regressive social norms that are not strongly supported by scripture–from their fellow Christians.

  • Yeah, I much rather prefer your God, too.

  • I’m a little confused on your view of the “Evangelical God” because I’ve met a lot of Christians who would call themselves evangelical and don’t believe in your “abusive ex-boyfriend god.” From what I can through reading the Bible, God doesn’t force anyone to love Him. He gives us the choice to choose Him or make our own way. And yeah, it hurts Him when His creation chooses something other than Him (I’d be a little stung if one of my characters jumped out of my novel and said, “Hey, Rebekah, I’ve kind of decided I don’t need you and I’m going to write my own story now. Kay? Bye.”), but that doesn’t mean God rules over us with an iron fist. Check out Deuteronomy 30:19: “this day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” God did give us free choice – even when that free choice has the potential to harm us. So you can’t really accuse God of being an abusive ex-boyfriend; He’s more like the scorned lover who still waits with open arms.

    • I guess you didn’t grow up with the view I did.

      • I’m honestly a bit confused as to what viewpoint you grew up with. I don’t want to ask you to relive it by explaining it, but is there a term we could Google to find out more in order to understand better?

        • Have you ever read Jonathon Edward’s “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”? That’s probably about the view I grew up with. I had to read that passage in high school literature. Very much a hell-fire and brimstone God. Maybe I should have said fundamental God rather than evangelical God.

          • Though, I think some evangelicals do hold a similar view–Mark Driscoll and his “God hates you!” view for instance.

          • Yeah…I think it’s probably more nuanced than that to say the least.

            If God only hated sinners, He would never have sent Jesus to die for us (giving up his Son/giving up himself). That is such incredible, unbelievable love. Yet, Jesus had to die for us – so there must be more to God than just love and forgiveness?

          • Ahh. I read that when I was homeschooled – but as a piece of literature. I will Google and refresh my memory.

  • KMR

    The protestant version of Christianity just isn’t possible. If God truly does send people to a tortuous hell for all eternity, then God is not love. He’s something else entirely and that something else doesn’t fit either because why would God’s creation actually be more moral than the creator? Oh the conundrum!

    The Orthodox God from what I know of it could possibly make sense. The universal God could also. But then I’m sure if I were to look more closely at them, there would be problems with that theology also. I’ve thought about atheism and just chucking the notion of God all together, but lack of evidence isn’t the same as evidence and the implausibility of everything being here without some sort of initial design is just that to me – implausible. So I’m stuck in nowhere land.

    It bothered me at first and in some ways still bothers me but after awhile you get used to the vague feeling of not knowing anything for certain. I do know I no longer fear God for if He exists I am certain He is nothing like what I’ve been taught and I find that comforting. And if He doesn’t, then there is nothing and why would I fear that. So I’ve decided to go through life seeking joy where I can find it, giving joy where I can although this I still find difficult since sometimes sacrifice is required and by nature, I am not sacrificial. If that is not good enough in the end, then it’s not. I cannot do when I cannot believe. So there you go. Anyway, I write all this just to say good thoughts, Sarah. I wish you the best in your journey and thanks for always making me think.

  • One of the most jarring parts of re-entering the evangelical community in the past year has been this view of God. I’ve come to realize that my background was a more mainline-y brand of evangelicalism than the evangelicalism of many of the people in my current community have (not to mention that I spent a decade in a very lefty mainline environment, punctuated by bouts of agnosticism), so this constant assertion that I’m now facing, that belief in God must be some kind of all or nothing submission to some kind of fundamentalist and authoritarian interpretation of faith is alarming. And I find such people really don’t know what to do with the response that if I had to believe in God only on those terms, I’d choose nothing, thanks. That’s the wrong answer. It means I’m “wishy-washy” (I’ve always taken that as a compliment), or “liberal” (another compliment). Yet mostly this just perplexes me, rather than angers me: do they really think that not only all the non-Christians, but also the vast majority of Christians, have it all wrong? Did God go to all this trouble to save only them and a handful of their like-thinking friends? If so, well, that’s not a God I can find myself believing in. Fortunately, though, I don’t think it’s all or nothing, and I suspect the variety of ways people see God–and the oft-quoted line about God’s ways being higher than ours–speaks more to the idea that God’s a lot bigger and more complex than we can ever understand, and frankly, that idea gives me hope. Most of the time, I suspect it’s not God I have a problem with but the people who would limit God.

  • Anonymous

    What if Satan is in place of the boyfriend that abuses you and Jesus/God is a parent who tries to tell you that if you go with him he will lead you into a life of hell? So many analogies.

    • An all-powerful parent who would leave you to hell for all eternity with that abusive partner even if you got there and decided you wanted to leave?

  • First off, I am so very glad that you survived that abusive relationship and were able to get out. I can’t imagine what you went through.

    As for God…y’know, the New Testament is surprisingly minimalistic on doctrine. Somehow, I think that as long as you believe Jesus is the Son of God and follow, obey and love God as best you know how, you’ll probably be okay….(basing this on a verse in I think 1 John). In other words, I doubt a lack of belief that one will burn in hell for all eternity is going to condemn you. I think practice is a lot more important than doctrine, and I think that practice can take a variety of forms and still be acceptable to God (this is 1 Corinthians 14 I think…)

    As for your actual post..I don’t know if I agree with you or not. I don’t know if your picture of the vengeful God is the God that I’ve made peace with, or if this vengeful God is much much worse. What Rebekah Snyder said above is much more the view I hold/grew up with. If God Is Good, by Randy Alcorn, really helped me see how God could be good and there could still be hell, but it may not help you at all. Also, I think Alcorn’s view of hell is different than “YOU WILL BURN IN HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY FIRE FLAME ETERNAL TORTURE EVEN IF YOU JUST STOLE SOMEONE ELSE’S ICE CREAM ONCE.” I thought it was at least…For me, the key thing on hell was – there can’t be true justice for atrocities without hell, and God is just – justly wrathful, not abusive ex-boyfriend wrathful. But I’m still confused in general. I feel like I might have a general idea but I don’t feel all that confident that I’m right.

    Maybe I’m completely wrong, and maybe you’re right. I just don’t think it’s a deal breaker either way when it comes right down to it…We should be able to coexist and love each other, not condemn each other because our beliefs on every little thing don’t match up. Sadly people do way too much condemning.

    In any case, *hugs* if you want them, and prayers and good wishes. And ice cream. 🙂

    • And thank you, for this post and for all your oh-so-thought-provoking posts.

    • Thank YOU for the ice cream and hugs! 🙂

  • I believe sarah that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. I believe, HE prepared the best person. Pray and Wait. God is always on time.

  • Once I was told that hell is the absence of God and choosing to be apart from Him I started understanding things more. God is Truth, Beauty and Love. So I can question, if what I believe is True it will stand regardless of the questions. If I believe is not true than I was living an illusion anyways.

    Take care,

  • Jvirolal

    I think I just had a Epiphany about how our society is deeply Pre-dominated by Christianity really is…even the practice of monogamy itself and also Abusive relationships resulting from it (and also the slavery like roles wives have) comes from Christianity. It’s pretty clear now.

  • FeezusMice

    I love most of your posts (and most of this one), but I don’t see the difference between Jesus and the evangelical god, especially as he threatens people with hell and tells us to “turn the other cheek.” I say this with all respect to both you and your feelings and experience. Please enlighten me if you would. 🙂