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*** possible religious triggers ***

I am reading the book The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff for my Book Club and really enjoying it. The book is about the polygamy in the Church of the Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) and has two storylines. The first storyline takes place in the present day in a cult offshoot of the Latter Day Saints. A man’s 19th wife is accused of killing him, but the son believes that his mother is innocent. The second storyline is a historical fiction account of Brigham Young’s 19th wife and her reasons for speaking out against polygamy.

Although I am enjoying the book, there are parts that I find triggering due to having been raised by a religious fanatic who also abused me. I kept thinking that my mother would have fit right in with the cult offshoot because the protagonist’s mother sounds eerily like my mother – doing hurtful things to others in the name of a deity. She does not seem to give any thought to basic common sense or decency. She has bought into the authority of someone else and given all of her power away in the name of religion when she is really just taking no responsibility for her own choices. How many times did my mother harm or neglect me in the name of religion?

Many readers have shared that they, too, were abused by religious fanatics. I have heard everything from being raped by pastors/deacons to missionaries. The worst part is that these abusers are revered by the many, which makes it doubly hard for the abuse victim to feel validated – How can someone so “good” by all account be abusing me like this?

My mother is no saint, but you sure could not tell her that. She is like a religious puppet – espousing all of the things that she believes she is supposed to say to “be religious” while putting very little of the responsibilities of her religion into practice. The sad thing is that I bought into her self-declarations of being so “godly” for much, much longer than I should have.

I vividly remember the moment that I finally challenged the truth of my mother’s claims. For decades, I had taken for granted that my mother was “g*dly” and I was not. She “heard from G*d” while I did not, and I was so angry with G*d for choosing her over me. The moment the blinders fell off my eyes was huge for me! I finally saw her for what she was – a self-deluded liar who did not bear any of the “fruit” that should exist in the life of a person who is truly g*dly. I realized that descriptors like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control did not apply to her … not even close. That awareness was a huge step in healing for me. The proof was always there, but it took me a long time to see it.

Photo credit: Amazon.com

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******* Religious triggers ********

I have not really talked about spiritual abuse on this blog. However, after reading Blue Orchid’s comment on this blog entry, I realized that there are probably many more of us out there who suffered from spiritual or religious abuse, so we need to talk about this topic.

What exactly is spiritual or religious abuse? To put it colloquially, it is a religious mind-f@#$. An abuser tells a child all sorts of disturbing things about God that traumatizes the child. Blue Orchid’s comment provides some examples. Even worse, an abuser might use religious figures as part of other types of abuse, such as dressing up like Jesus and then raping a child. The end result is that the child’s view of religion becomes distorted, causing a barrier to using faith to help the spiritual abuse survivor heal from the abuse.

My mother abused me in many ways spiritually. For example, she locked my sister and me in her bedroom and “laid her hands” on us to “fill us with the Holy Spirit.” She would know that we “received the Spirit” when we began talking in tongues. My younger sister figured out quickly how to get around this and started babbling and smiling. She was released from the room. I was locked in the room for hours, sobbing because I saw this as evidence that even God had rejected me. I was only 9.

My mother refused to take me to a doctor and nurture me in any way when I was sick. One time, my aunt brought me home early from a sleepover at her house because I had an “out of both ends” virus. My mother refused to take care of me in any way and instead said, “She is not sick,” because she was calling things that “be not as though they were.” As long as she said I was not sick, I would be miraculously healed. My aunt was aghast and told my mother to come take a look at the fluids all over her car. Meanwhile, I took care of myself. I was only around 9 or 10.

My father (the “good” parent) was an atheist, so my mother/abuser was the one who took me to church. I believed that I would burn in hell if I did not believe in her version of God. Whenever I could not find my mother, I panicked that she had been “raptured” and that I was not good enough to be “raptured” myself. I believed that my mother’s auditory voices of God (she is schizophrenic) were evidence of her closeness with Him and knowledge of Him while I was not good enough to be close with God.

I was sixteen when my father died and my mother started sexually abusing me again. I walked away from religion at this point in my life. I wanted nothing to do with my mother’s version of God. It took me over a decade to discover who God really is. Before I could embrace a faith of my own, I had to recognize that my mother spiritually abused me and that all of the nonsense that she told me about God was a load of crap. This process took a long time.

If you suffered from spiritual or religious abuse, you are not alone. It is actually much more common than you might realize.

Related Topic:

Blue Orchid’s Blog

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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