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Christian Koinonia
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Churches, even bad ones, emphasize love. They just put their own spin on what it means to love. We were told they loved us, and that if we loved God and loved Truth, we’d stay in their churches, that if we loved our brothers in Christ, we’d wear long skirts and never look a man in the eye, and that if we loved the pastor, we’d obey him. If we loved… Yet they didn’t know what love was.
Love… ? | Spiritual Abuse Blogs
Love… ? | Spiritual Abuse Blogs
blogs.spiritualabuse.org
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As highly empathetic people, we also have to be aware of this and on our guard more than others, realizing that we attract these types of controlling and harmful individuals just because we are “too kind” or “gentle” to stand up against it when we are being mistreated. It is important that we find the balance in order to stand up and draw the proverbial line in the sand and firmly forbid that those individuals cross that line. Self protection is something we have to learn, and it is best learned within healthy relationships where we are appreciated for our empathy but also respected as individuals with needs and desires of our own.
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In the middle of this shame inducing nightmare, Jane suffered more than most other children. “The pain I had at home made me more sensitive” to the messages of condemnation. You see, Jane was being molested by her older brother for most of her childhood, unknown to the adults in her life. Her brother that was molesting her was six years older than her and would appear in her bedroom at night to sexually abuse her. She says he was about eleven years old when it started, which meant she was merely five years old. Because of the abuse, those messages at church brought even more shame to her than they did to other children in the same environment. The fear and condemnation was overwhelming for her. She describes a day when her mother was not at home when she arrived home and she was terrified that the rapture had taken place and she had been left behind because of her “sin”–the abuse that was out of her control.
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“Ginger” is a beautiful young lady, talented and poised. The story she shared with me was in drastic, shocking contrast to her appearance. It was unimaginable what she had gone through as a child, what she continues to experience as an adult.

In Ginger’s case, it wasn’t the church who administered the worst part of the spiritual abuse–yet spiritual abuse it undoubtedly was. She describes that “Everything in life was about trying to obtain a spiritual experience, (speaking in tongues).”

Ginger remembers watching as her mother made her older sister give up a beginning career in modelling to pray “for eight hours every night in order to “get saved”. Her sister still had to work eight hours a day at another job. After many months of sleep deprivation, the older sister finally decided to pretend to “be saved”
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The demands of a pastor or teacher are often too strenuous, adding restrictions and rules on top of what is truly demanded in Scripture. Are skirts long enough? Are collars high, sleeves long, and material loose? The subtle show of skin or appearance of figure will lead a man to fall. Are the men wearing suits in the summer heat, daily scraping off their facial hair, marching forward with a heavy black Bible under their arms? No one will support them in the ministry without a white collared shirt and tie. Are households in church every time the doors are open, despite sickness and family gatherings? Do women touch-up their make-up five minutes before their husbands arrive home, dinner on the table and children decked in freshly-pressed clothes after a grueling day of isolation, chaos, and bodily fluids, now taking on her duty as a proper help-meet for her husband? Generations of parents continue to uphold these ideals based on their own childhood, never questioning the validity of such teachings, oblivious to the sparkle soon lost in their children’s eyes.
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Looking back, I can’t tell the flags from all the red anymore but back then I swallowed it all in whole. Needless to say that when my years in the cult were over, I desired to find truth. For years I carried crippling fears with me, fearing I would take the wrong turn in life and even committing to a vacation, buying tickets, etc. caused severe anxiety. What if God would cancel my plans last minute like “He” had done so many times before?
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Below is the experience of Melanie and Mark who were long-term members of the United Pentecostal Church. They pastored a church for years and Mark held several district positions during his time as a UPC minister. What happened to them isn’t just a one-time incident in the organization, as you will see from a second couple who recently shared a small part of their story. I saw Melanie’s story elsewhere and asked permission to share it here so that others would be able to see it and be helped and encouraged. (Some changes have been made.) The organization doesn’t just bite and devour some of its former members who were never licensed or didn’t hold positions, but they have also done so to their licensed ministers, people who have served the UPCI for years, some for decades.
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We are always looking for new people to join our group of bloggers, so please consider registering and watch your email for more information. How frequently you post is up to you and no one needs to be a polished writer. Let your voice be heard and help others recover. You may even find it therapeutic.
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During this time period, Grace was approximately two months old when her father decided one day that her screaming was “anger”, and that she was “throwing a tantrum”. He spanked her infant legs with his hand, a couple of swats to make it sting and begin teaching her early that “anger is a sin”. At her next doctor’s appointment, it was discovered that her mother, who’d been trying to breastfeed her, was not making enough milk, and the cries were cries of hunger and tummy discomfort. Grace is unclear about her parent’s feelings in this regard, simply stating that they recorded it in her baby book with a “ha, ha” beside the date of her “first spanking”, even after they knew about the hunger.

Grace says her parents did love her and did not intend to be cruel, but the toxic environment was one both of them had been raised in, and they were simply doing what they thought was right at the time, based on their intense devotion to the God they’d been taught to believe was a demanding God of judgement.
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