John Shore on IFB survivors and my journey toward healing

John Shore on IFB survivors and my journey toward healing September 12, 2012

Image via David Hayward

This piece at John Shore’s blog just awakened all kinds of emotions for me:

In surviving the worst survivors of IFB have become the best. The writings that I’ve read from former IFBs are some of the strongest testimonies to the strength and decency of the human spirit that I’ve ever come across. I appreciate being asked to offer you guys a word of support, but you should be offering support to me and anyone else lucky enough to hear what you have to say. You’re the power. You’re the strength. It’s you who are singing the songs that need to be heard.

He talks specifically here about survivors of Independent Fundamental Baptist churches (though I think this paragraph can apply to all survivors of abuse). When I read that paragraph all I could say was “thank you.”

I don’t always get praise like that when I talk about my past as a fundamental Christian. Christians in my life, even those who were not raised fundamental, accuse me of being bitter.

They tell me I have to forgive and love my old churches no matter how badly they’ve hurt me.

They tell me, “You’ve strayed so far from our precious Saviour (words I literally got recently).”

They tell me that I’m sinning when I can’t go to church on Sunday morning because the thought of sitting in a pew makes me physically sick much of the time.

They tell me that I’m selfish, focused only on my own healing, and that I can’t serve God outside of a church family (the kind that meets under a steeple on Sundays, of course. Friends from ex-fundy support groups on Facebook don’t count apparently).

Quite frankly though, to the Christians who say such things, you remind me of the people who told me to stay with my abusive ex. Or the boy who, after I broke up with that abusive ex, tried to take advantage of my “vulnerability.” I know that you’re trying to control me.

You might not even know that you’re trying to control me, and that’s because someone else is successfully controlling you (newsflash: that someone controlling you? It’s not God). So I’ll forgive you. You know not what you do. But I won’t give in to your expectations for me. I’m healing how I need to, thanks.

Others take a different angle and try to convert me to Atheism. It’s fair. I mean, I’ve tried to convert Atheists before so I probably deserve it. But I just want my Atheist friends to understand that, for me personally, spirituality is something I value deeply. Giving it up would be letting my abusers take away a part of my identity, a part of who I am. I can’t let them have that. 

I’m so glad for all the people who have healed from spiritual abuse by finding solace in Atheism or Agnosticism, but that’s not my path. I’d be lying to myself if I took it. I’m finding strength in the new, unorthodox religious communities that I’ve found and in feminist liberation theology and I’m honestly very happy with where I’m headed spiritually. If I’m hurting, it’s not because of my faith but because of the people all around me who are telling me that my faith isn’t right because it doesn’t line up with their abusive, violent, fear-driven theologies. 

So friends, let’s affirm one another with John Shore’s words. If you’ve survived abuse from the IFB, whether you’re still in an IFB church not ready or able to leave, whether you’ve become an Atheist or an Agnostic or a Buddhist or a Pagan, or whether you’re like me and you’re trying to pick up the pieces of your crumbled prison and make a home out of it…

You’re strong, you’re brave, and we need to hear your stories.

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