BOTSWANA ALCOHOL AIDS PROJECT
PO BOX 1105
FINDING A HEALTHY CHURCH-AVOIDING SPIRITUAL ABUSE
By Rev. Jim MacDonald M. R. S.
Is there anything that hurts worse than being kicked when you're already down? That's what spiritual abuse (alias:
ministry or truth) always does. Spiritual abuse always points an accusing finger and keeps spouting off words and quoting
scriptures when friendship and comfort are what is needed.
Without fail, abusive spirituality always employs tactics of high pressure and shame. Spiritual abuse uses shame as
a powerful tactic and tool to get people to be a certain way and do certain church things like give money. Such bogus spirituality
can always come up with 10,000 handy dandy Scriptures to justify its condemning judgments. You can count on it.
Our Good Shepherd's yoke is easy and His burden (the burden of being a Christian) is light. It's the burden of a warm
blanket laid gently upon a frail body, shivering with cold. It's the burden of a warm meal settling gently into a growling,
hungry stomach. Christ's burden always nurtures, encourages and heals. Religion's burden always threatens, nags and harasses.
In finding a healthy Church, we can avoid spiritual abuse much of the time by learning how it operates and remaining
alert to it. Spiritual abuse will always:
** Imply that God's commitment to us and our well-being is only as strong as our commitment to Him. This ignores the
Word that says I will never leave you or forsake you.
** Try to intimidate and control us with shame or with the threat of God's hopeless rejection. Reality is that we are
made fully acceptable to God by our Faith in the person and work of Christ on the Cross and in our everyday lives.
** Stress behavioral modification over trusting Christ's faithfulness, His Cross, His righteousness. Spiritual abuse
says,change your behavior. Jesus says come to me and I will change your heart which will then change your behavior I love
you as you are.
** Find ways to know all our embarrassing dark secrets as well as our monthly income. These become fuels for their shame
cannon to fire at us.
**Call itself love while at the same time, employing threats and pressuring shame tactics.
** Minimize and trivialize the completeness of Christ's work of redemption on the Cross by stressing that Ok-ness with
God is earned by performance (attend every service, give more money, give more time, try harder, pray more) will-power, procedures,
and programs constant conformity.
** Try to shame us or make us feel guilty for; not giving more money, not investing more time in Church activities,
not immediately changing all behaviors that they see as wrong, giving no place for the process of change, not looking or
sounding Christian enough, using the wrong translation of the Bible, being too casual in our dress for church etc.
** Tell us that God loves us then add such things as but, however, you must be different, or God's gonna be mad at you.
The message of the Good News Of Christ is altogether different from all that appears above. The truth is we cannot change
ourselves. When we are Born Again God creates a new spiritual person in us. Our old nature does not automatically go away.
We are told we must strip it off. God understands that this is a process. The Bible calls the process sanctification. Some
of us call it recovery. God is in the midst of the process. He loves us as we are and enough to cause the change. He puts
the will and action in us; Philippians 2:13. Our task is to stay in the process with Him, cooperate with Him, say no to our
way and yes to His way a day at a time.
Should you read this and realize that you are in an unhealthy Church system - get out! Immediately, if not sooner! Your
spiritual vitality and your understanding of your relationship with God is the most important thing about you and affects
all other areas of your life and relationships. Remaining in an abusive Church system can lead to depression, panic and anxiety
attacks, relapse and an ultimate rejection of God as you give up in frustration.
Visit Churches, ask questions. What is it they say makes you OK with God? What do they say about addicts? What is their
view of AA and recovery in general? Is the Church system full of rules and regulations? What is the message from the pulpit?
Is the Pastor approachable and does he acknowledge his own fallibility? Is the Church overly interested in your income level
and your personal business? Is there a sense of friendship without strings? Seek - you'll find a safe haven. They are around
- just hard to find.
May God bless you in your quest.
Learn More About Spiritual Abuse & Recovery
Self Quiz for Religious Addiction