This is what the media does – they tell you what to think about and they give you time; one thing for a while until the next big story comes along, and suddenly, we’ve moved on. Whether it’s the death of an unarmed 17 year old black teenager, or the Kardashian’s finally revealing the oh-so-long-awaited picture of baby North, the media controls your conversations, your thoughts, your words, and even your actions – against your wishes. This is why when you make a conscious effort not to make comments in certain conversations, you do anyway. Especially when it’s a story of a young lady writing publicly about her affair with a well-known pastor.
Let me just start by making one thing clear. I have chosen not to cast any judgments or draw any conclusions. I am not saying the story is true, and neither am I saying it is false. I am not saying making this experience public on her blog was appropriate, and neither am I saying it was inappropriate. I read it as a blog post. As a story. And weird enough, as entertainment. As I read it however, something was brought to the fore front of my mind. Moving on…
A young lady, Ese Walter, has written a blog post that has sparked some conversation – mainly because she said she was abused – and everyone is so quick to throw stones. She never said she was forced. She also acknowledges that she knows she wasn’t jazzed. In addition, she made it very clear that she wasn’t claiming to be the good or perfect one. So who said abuse has to be physical? There are so many forms of abuse – psychological, emotional, mental, physical, etc. and of course, sexual.
Two years ago I was exposed to something called “spiritual abuse.” I had never heard of that before and I was very skeptical about what it meant. I was privileged to have a conversation with a girl who had experienced – for the most part of her life – extreme spiritual abuse. As I am sure many of you have probably never heard that before, I’ll try to define it in as little words as I can. Spiritual abuse is when someone with religious power maltreats or misleads people using his power over the church, his expertise with the word, or simply using Jesus (or whoever the spiritual leader might be for that religion). It is noteworthy that spiritual abuse may consist of psychological abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, and much more. However, for the most part, spiritual abuse tends to be more psychological and emotional, than anything else, and does damage just as bad. Take for instance one of the acts that is becoming more common by the day – a pastor asks for money before he can pray for you. What is that? You answer.
We live in a world where religion has taken away from our true acts of worship. Reverence, obedience, loyalty, devotion? They all go to our pastors instead of God. Our dedication to our churches has become way greater than our dedication to our relationship with God. Our focus is gradually shifting from fellowshipping with believers to what we are allowed to wear to church. We are getting blinded by the illusion that the church is a haven of perfection, and its leaders can do no wrong. The church is not perfect, and we are ALL human. As much as we might like to deny it, spiritual abuse surrounds us in many more ways than we even know. And God forbid you bring it up as a topic of discussion.
According to Mary Demuth (marydemuth.com), a woman who has experienced some spiritual abuse, you can identify spiritually abusive ministries or ministers because they:
“Create a culture of fear and shame. Often there is no grace for someone who fails to live up to the church’s or ministry’s expectation. And if someone steps outside of the often-unspoken rules, leaders shame them into compliance. Can’t admit failure but often searches out failure in others and uses that knowledge to hold others in fear and captivity. They often quote scriptures about not touching God’s anointed, or bringing accusations against an elder. Yet they often confront sin in others, particularly ones who bring up legitimate biblical issues. Or they have their circle of influence take on this task, silencing critics.”
“Hold to outward performance but rejects authentic spirituality Places burdens on followers to act a certain way, dress an acceptable way, and have an acceptable lifestyle.”
“Buffer him/herself from criticism by placing people around themselves whose only allegiance is to the leader. Views those who bring up issues as enemies. Those who were once friends/allies swiftly become enemies once a concern is raised. Sometimes these folks are banished, told to be silent, or shamed into submission.”
“Use exclusivity for allegiance. Followers close to the leader or leaders feel like insiders. Everyone else is on the outside, though they long to be in that inner circle.”
Victims of abuse usually stay in abusive relationships for many reasons, some of which include but are not limited to fear and dependence. They fear that they or people they love will be hurt as a result of attempting to walk away or that people will not believe them if they came public. They also feel like the abuser gives them something they may not be able to get anymore if they walked. Spiritual abuse (or any other emotional, psychological or mental abuse) is not any different. It’s all one and the same – abuse.
The effects of spiritual abuse are very intense. I found that out when I had the opportunity to speak with the young lady I referenced earlier. When I told her I wanted to interview her on my radio show, and a segment of the interview involved discussing what part God played in helping her through her situation, she told me she didn’t know if she could do it because she still struggled with the idea that God messed up big time. She’s heavily scarred, struggles with looking into mirrors, and has a hard time accepting that Jesus is actually a loving person. It has been almost a decade that she’s been separated from her spiritual abuser, but she still faces major issues. As I read the blog post in question, I connected many dots and saw many reflections of a spiritually abused person.
Let me say however, that I am putting no words into the mouth of the author. She did not say she was spiritually abused. She simply said she was abused. Like the majority, she may not even know what spiritual abuse is. My point is this – many people are constantly being spiritually abused AND DON’T EVEN KNOW IT. Emotionally, psychologically, mentally? I’m not trying to make you agree with me. I’m just trying to make you think. In this situation, put the sex aside and think about everything else. For one moment, throw your judgments out the window, and set your stones down. Think about the parts of the story that you know absolutely nothing about – the details of many conversations, meetings, and actions of which you are not aware.
There’s so much that happens that we are not exposed to. One person stands up to say something that is probably happening in many parts of the world, and frankly the backlash is bewildering. And then you wonder why people in abusive relationships stay in them? Look at our world. People are put above the law. People are put above justice. Nigeria is no stranger to people hardly being held accountable for things that they should take responsibility for – Just because we somehow believe that certain people cannot do certain things.
Some say it’s a publicity stunt. That, it may be. And if that is the case she won’t be the first, or the last to air her dirty laundry for some publicity. That happens on a daily basis. I mean, dirty laundry gets you a good amount of fame – positive and negative. Tested, and proven. Again, am I saying this right? No. To each man, his own moral standard. So truth, weakness, attention seeking, or just plain nonchalance – call it what you wish, but keep it somewhere in the shelves of your minds that you only know in part. Not the whole. This girl has decided to tell a story. You only know what she has chosen to tell you. You don’t know the rest.
Apart from using this an excellent opportunity to bring up the topic of spiritual abuse, I have allowed this one to float through my mind without trying to defend an opinion on whether it is true or not. You however, are entitled to one. Just make sure it’s an educated one that you can defend.
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