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Archive for May 15th, 2009

A while ago, I wrote about Spiritual or Religious Abuse as Part of Child Abuse. A reader posted the following comment:

In a previous comment I mentioned that I believe that my mom’s spirituality functions a lot like an addiction…almost like an alcoholic. You said that you identified with that. Is that something you would be willing to write more about? For me, I feel that it meant that God was unpredictable, and therefore my mother was unpredictable because of her loyalty to what she believed to be his will/voice. Because if something was coming “from God”, then that would take precedence over whether it was healthy for us. I also know that my dad, having grown up in an alcoholic family, tolerated her god-addiction in an unhealthy way. I wish he had protected us.

I’m still struggling to unpack my experiences in this arena. I would really appreciate hearing more of your thoughts. ~ BlueOrchid8

Yes, this is definitely an area in my life in which I struggled. It took me many years to sort through the religious/spiritual abuse, break through the lies, and be able to embrace a faith that was very different from what I had been taught.

In my case, my father was an atheist, but he was fine with my mother/abuser bringing my sister and me to church. My mother went from having no religion to being O-B-S-E-S-S-E-D with G*d. If the church doors were open, we needed to be there. My sister and I were not allowed to listen to “secular” music. Every word, act, or even thought was supposed to be religiously-based. (Ironically, this did not stop the woman from pulling my sister and me out of bed to be ritually abused, but that is another topic.) I even missed my senior prom because I had to go to Florida for a “Jesus ‘86” festival.

It got even worse when my father died suddenly from a heart attack when I was 16. My mother began hearing G*d speak to her audibly at least daily. (My therapist believes that she is schizophrenic.) If a boy asked me out for a date, my mother had to ask G*d if I could go. If “G*d” said no, then there was no appeal – I was to “take it up with G*d.”

“G*d” would tell my mother things that I knew were just plain wrong. For example, my intuition told me that my boyfriend was about to break up with me. My mother told me that G*d said that I would marry him. I believed her because G*d supposedly told her this. Sure enough, he dumped me, anyhow. Ironically, I later married a man with the same first name, so my mother felt vindicated.

When I was in my thirties, I finally had it out with G*d over my mother. I told Him that I could not trust a wishy-washy deity like Him. I had never questioned that my mother was a “godly woman” and that I was the one who was flawed. When I cried out to G*d about all of this, I felt very strongly in my spirit, “What if she isn’t godly?” I was shocked by this thought because truly I had never even once doubted that she was godly.

It was like the guy in the Bible who had the scales fall from his eyes and saw for the first time. For the first time, I examined my mother’s behaviors and held them up to the standard of the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I did not see even one of those fruit growing in her garden.

Once I finally “saw” this, embracing my faith became easy. I was able to recognize that my mother/abuser had lied to me throughout my life. Her warped version of G*d did not define Him. Once I threw away her garbage, I was free to pursue my own understanding of faith. It was empowering.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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