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Posts Tagged ‘religion and child abuse’

**** religious triggers ****

As I shared previously, I am working through a Bible study right now written by Beth Moore called Breaking Free. Two days of the study during Week 5 are devoted to healing from child victimization. Because I have many readers who are Christians, I thought I would share some of Beth Moore’s insights on forgiveness from a (helpful) Christian perspective.

Beth Moore does not share the details of her child victimization publically, but she has shared that, by the time she first learned what a virgin was, she was ashamed to know that she was not one. She has also shared that the person who raped her was a male authority figure who should have protected her, not harmed her. While I do not agree with everything that worked for her, I think most of what she wrote was helpful. This is definitely the best Christian writing I have seen for addressing healing from child abuse.

Of course, Beth Moore addresses the topic of forgiveness, which is a very touchy subject among child abuse survivors. I really liked what she had to say about it:

Forgiving my perpetrator didn’t mean suddenly shrugging my shoulders, muttering, “OK, I forgive,” and going on as if those things didn’t happen. They did happen. And they took a terrible toll on my life. Forgiveness involved my handing over to God the responsibility for justice. The longer I held on to it, the more bondage strangled the life out of me. God saw every bit of it, and He can far better represent me and uphold my cause. Forgiveness meant my deferring the cause to Christ and deciding to be free from the ongoing burden of bitterness and blame. ~ p. 112

While I would word my perspective on forgiveness differently, I think we are pretty much saying the same thing. Forgiveness has nothing to do with “forgetting” or letting my abuser off the hook. Instead, it is about choosing to stop nursing the bitterness as a gift to myself. By making this choice, I stopped thinking about my abusers so much and also stopped making them a central focus of my life. I was able to use that freed up energy to focus on my own healing and my own life.

She says that the “memories are still painful to me at times, but they no longer have power over me” (p. 112). This has been my experience as well. While I still have the memories of all of the abuse and can now access them at will, they don’t rock me in the way that they once did. They are a fact of my history, but they are not who I am.

Like many of you, I have also heard many unhelpful things about forgiveness from Christians, including from the pulpit. It is refreshing to hear a more realistic view from a prominent Christian teacher who has actually lived through child abuse and can speak from her own personal experience.

Beth Moore also equates the battle of healing from childhood abuse to the battle that David experienced when battling Goliath. She does not minimize the devastation of child abuse at all, which is also very refreshing to read.

Photo credit: Amazon.com

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*******Religion triggers*******

On my blog entry entitled Reconciling Child Abuse and Faith/Religion, a reader posted the following comment:

Anywho… if I can continue our religious discussion: so you contend that the evil of the world is caused by humans. An obvious enough answer. But what does god do as he looks down upon the evil that his children create? He should easily be able to prevent these terrible things from happening and spare the innocent victims. The fact that he doesn’t means that either he is willing to allow the innocent to suffer, or he does not have the power to stop it. Perhaps he does have a purpose for allowing this suffering, as you seem to imply (if I understand you properly). But the fact remains: the lord, who is supposed to be all-loving allows unspeakable acts to be inflicted upon the nicest, kindest, most devout, and most innocent of his creations. God could have hypothetically created a world where there is no pain and suffering, and his creations are only ever filled with positive emotion, but he didn’t. In my mind, the only logical conclusions to make of this are that:
1.) God is not truly all-powerful.
2.) God is not truly all-loving.
3.) God does not exist.
And what of natural disasters, disease, accidents, and other forms of suffering and pain which humans do not cause?
Hehe… sorry for the somewhat confrontational answer. I just really like these kinds of discussions. ~ Lenore

I really like these kinds of discussions, too, which is why I am blogging about this today. :0) Considering how deeply child abuse survivors have been wounded, I think that these are good issues to explore as people wrestle with how a loving God could have allowed such terrible things to happen to them when they were innocent children.

To respond to your question, I need to present a different premise from what you might hear from many religious people… I do not believe that the Garden of Eden was a place. I think that story is an allegory for something that happened to us in the spiritual realm. I believe that all of us were once a part of God and that something happened that split us off. (People with Dissociative Identity Disorder will probably understand what I mean the best.) Our natural state is being one with God and includes having his attributes – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (the fruit of the Spirit).

I do not believe that God created anything evil but that evil is a natural state of being outside of the presence of God. Blaming God for the existence of evil is like blame light for the existence of darkness. Darkness is what exists when there is no light: all of the darkness in the world cannot snuff out a tiny candle.

I think that each of us is a part of God that somehow got “split off” and is in the process of integrating back into being a part of God. For this to happen, we need to become pure light because darkness cannot exist in the presence of light. I believe that the way we become pure light is to develop the fruit of the Spirit, and we do this by experiencing difficult circumstances that have the ability to solidify embracing these attributes. For example, how else can you learn patience than by being forced to wait? If you don’t have to wait, there is no need for patience.

I think earth is a place that is separate from God other than what we bring with us. We are the hands of God on this earth. The more we become like God (develop the fruit of the Spirit), the more presence God has on this earth. God is also present in the living things that surround us (nature), which helps him be closer to us. However, earth is no Eden. We learn through facing and overcoming obstacles, and that is what life is all about. It takes many lifetimes to develop the fruit of the Spirit.

Because the purpose of earth is to learn, I have no expectation of life being easy. I do not believe that death is the end – I actually believe that living through trauma is a much more difficult road than dying from it. So, when natural disasters happen and people die, I see them as being released from this cycle of the learning experience and being at peace for a while before they travel back to learn more life lessons the next time around.

What is the point of a weight room with no weights in it? You wouldn’t grow any muscle. The hardships in life are what develop our spiritual muscle.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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****** religious triggers *****

I have been reading the book The Shack by William Paul Young. I have been focusing upon different words of wisdom in the book that can be applied to survivors of child abuse. See my first post for more information about the book.

Today, I would like to focus upon the following quote. Mack is asking God about where He was while his daughter was being abused and murdered. Here is God’s response in the book:

Mack, she was never alone. I never left her; we [the trinity] never left her, not for one instant. I could no more abandon her, or you, than I could abandon myself … [T]here was not a moment that we were not with her. ~ The Shack page 175

Many child abuse survivors struggle with where God was while they were being abused. I truly believe this quote from the book. I believe that God was right there, giving me the strength and courage to survive it. I also believe that God is the one who blessed me with the ability to dissociate and gave me the gift of dissociative identity disorder (DID). No, God did not stop the abuse, but He gave me the tools I needed to survive it, and he rubbed a healing balm over me to help me heal the pain as an adult.

Over at Isurvive, I posted the following words to someone who is struggling with this very issue. So, if this sounds familiar to those of you who frequent there, that would be why. :O)

We child abuse survivors get angry with God because we see Him as the only one able to stop the abuse, but really it was the people in our lives who let us down, not God. I believe that God grieved mightily, with tears streaming down his face, as He saw me being harmed. I also believe that He became angry with the adults in my life who ignored His instruction in the Bible to protect the children.

I don’t believe that it is God’s job to protect my kid — It is MY job to protect him. I protect my kid because I love him. I was not protected because I was not loved. That’s a choice of men, not of God.

Despite all of that, God made me strong and gave me the gift of dissociation to enable me to survive the abuse. God is the only one who helped me — my parents sure didn’t. God was also present in the teachers who took me under their wings and my sister, who gave me love.

God has also taken something as horrible as my abuse and brought lots of good and beauty out of it. Because I survived it, I know that others can survive it, too. Because I am healing, I know that others can heal, and I encourage them as they heal.

No, I would never choose to experience abuse or for anyone else to experience it, and this is why I take my job seriously in helping any child abuse survivor that I can. I am also active in helping change society to protect children. I believe that is how God works — through people caring enough to make a difference.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Chapel (c) Lynda Bernhardt

On my blog entry entitled Feeling the Need to Coddle or Protect My Mother/Abuser, Zoe posted the following comment:

I struggle in the same ways somewhat. i dont know how to reconcile it. especially in view of Christiianity which is a huge part of who i am. and shapes the way i think about everything, it presses heavily upon me.

I cannot think of a way to address this comment without including religion, so I will post a trigger warning.

***** Religious Triggers *****

A faith in God is supposed to be helpful in healing from any pain, so why is Christianity often a hindrance to healing from child abuse rather than helpful? I think the problem is that organized Christianity is interpreted in a way that does not leave room for situations like child abuse. Child abuse, particularly by a parent, goes against the grain of the organized Christian view of a family, and organized Christianity does not know quite what to do with it.

One of my biggest hurdles was the requirement to honor your father and mother. How was I supposed to “honor” my abuser? I wrestled mightily with this commandment and finally chose to allow my mother to write to me monthly as my way of “honoring” her.

Another big hurdle was in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Some church folks would say that God would not forgive me unless I first forgave my mother. And, to many church folks, forgiveness meant reconciliation, so my options were either to invest in a relationship with my abuser or burn in hell. What a choice!

As I have grown deeper in my relationship with God, my searching has led me to a much deeper understanding of the Bible. Many of the truths that I have discovered run contrary to organized Christianity’s interpretations of the Bible. I chose to reread the words that Jesus said as if I was reading them for the first time and removed any preconceived notions or teachings that I learned from the church. I found that the faith in the Bible is much deeper, richer, and significantly more freeing than what I have been taught in church.

While I do not fully agree with the interpretations of God in The Shack by William Paul Young, I think that Mr. Young’s view of God is closer to my own than what I get in a church service. I believe that God wants to free us from bondage, not make our lives even harder. I believe that God is the only being who fully understands how deeply I have been hurt, so He is going to be compassionate about my struggles rather than judgmental.

For example, the Bible says that gluttony is a sin, so there are people who would call me a “sinner” for struggling with binge eating. However, because God knows how deeply I have been hurt, he understands why I do it, so His focus is going to be on helping me heal the underlying pain, not on stopping me from “sinning” through gluttony.

If Christianity is a hindrance to your ability to heal from child abuse, take a step back from the church’s interpretation of the Bible and, instead, go directly to God. Pray about the issues that are bothering you. Read the Bible anew and remove the filter that organized religion has placed upon your interpretations of the Bible.

God cannot be contained – not in a box, a church, or an interpretation of who He is supposed to be. God is who He is, and you don’t need a pope, priest, pastor, or preacher to be a middleman. Take your concerns and questions directly to God, and He will open your eyes to the truth.

If you will go directly to God, you will find that your faith can run much, much deeper than has been recognized in a church building. God’s healing power cannot be limited.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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