Growing up in the public schools as a kid, I learned how to avoid the bullies. Stay out of their way and there won’t be any problems. I remember anticipating the day I would graduate and get out of there so I could live life free from bullies. Then I entered a legalistic church and discovered that high school mentality extended beyond the classroom. Listening to the preacher say that we needed to submit to the “man of Gawd”, even when he’s wrong because “Gawd will handle it”, made me skeptical. I heard them say that “if a woman is truly submissive, everything will land on the man, for he is ultimately responsible”. That’s an easy way out for a woman to not have to stand up to a religious bully. Just walk away believing they won’t be held accountable, because the husband will take the rap. Until Elizabeth Schatz took that approach and landed her in prison right along with her husband, when their little girl died after a lengthy and dramatic “spanking”.
I’m not intending this to be condemnation against Elizabeth. She is suffering her own consequences as she now faces 13 years in prison. But her testimony will live on and prayerfully more women will wake up and realize that they are responsible for protecting their children, even if it is to stand up to their own husbands.
I left an abusive cult 2 years ago. I know the extreme fundamentalist doctrine like the back of my hand and I wish I had never known it. But perhaps some how it can be used for good. I had once been involved with drugs and my husband’s life was almost ruined by his former addiction. I wish we hadn’t experienced that as well. But we have spent the last 12 years ministering to addicts and their families as they seek help escaping the bondage. Now we have yielded our years in a cult to the Lord to help others who are escaping. Drug dealers don’t like rats who report where their labs are. Cult leaders and it’s loyal followers don’t like when you tell people they are a cult. One you can convict in a court of law, the other you have to discern on your own. Disrupt a drug dealers business and he sends henchmen to threaten you into silence. Disrupt the cult life and they start accusing you of all sorts of belittling things.
I watched 20/20 as three women courageously came out and revealed what happened to them. They aren’t alone.
To all victims everywhere, I apologize for not speaking up sooner. What Jocelyn Zichterman said on the show is so true, victims are afraid to speak out.
I was afraid to speak out.
We worked hard for the last two years to attempt to live a normal life and after leaving a cult we were in for 15 years, I’m not sure I know what a normal life is supposed to look like. God has been gracious to allow us time to rest. We didn’t jump into another church right away. We attended a few different congregations from time to time when we first left. It was comforting to know the other pastors in our town knew that our former church is a cult. It was nice to know we had support. None of these pastors tried to manipulate us into going to church. They just extended the invitation to come whenever we wanted with no obligation. We have several friends who are pastors that we remain good friends with, but integrating back into the system is just too difficult right now. However, we have not forsaken gathering with believers. We continue to gather, we do attend from time to time and we aren’t sitting at home doing nothing.
We are active in our community in many ways and will not allow our pain to cripple us into some kind of agoraphobic state. We haven’t crawled into a ball like a fetus, we haven’t closed ourselves off from the community. What we have discovered is that there are millions of people who feel the same way we do. People who have come out of many different types of churches. Church abuse is rampant.
I don’t think all fellowships are abusive. Not at all. But this is an epidemic. It’s real.
I don’t want to paint a wide brush over all churches or fellowships.
But the abusive bully tactics are all over the world, not just in high school. Not just in the work place. Not just in politics.
It’s in churches.
Did we really think the adversary would not be able to penetrate the church?
Our own human nature is our worst enemy.
Love your enemy.
Start with you.
We need to come to grips with our identity in Christ. Have we realized that our Savior indwells us? That the very Savior who lives within us is worthy of our love as he resides within our hearts?
When we ridicule ourselves as worthless, when we hate ourselves, when we are disgusted with our lives, we are identifying with our enemy. He also feels that way about us.
But Jesus loves us.
He adores us.
As we are.
Jesus looks at us and sees himself. He doesn’t condemn himself, nor does He condemn us. This is who we need to identify with. We do so by loving who we are created to be.
Which identity do we want to pay attention to?
Bullies pay more attention to the alter identity that seeks to destroy us. When we are dieing inside, we spew that death all over everyone else. Bullies point out that dark identity in others, because all they see is darkness.
When we look to Jesus, our new identity, we begin to live out our spiritual DNA by loving Him in us, by loving ourselves, and then lavishing that love on others.
I’m not talking about those who are ‘lovers of themselves’, as the bible cautions us about. Those are the dark ones who love their pride and ego.
We can love the identity we were given in Christ. Through this vision we can truly walk in the reality of the kingdom on earth.
Instead of bringing hell to earth, we bring heaven to earth.
Reaching out to the wounded people, who have been slashed by abusive groups, is living out the kingdom life. It’s walking out the Good Samaritan by tending to their wounds. Being a servant to them, protecting them while they are weak. This is the ministry God has laid at our feet.
But speaking out always draws out the opposer, even among those who consider themselves to be brethren.
Leaving was hard. Speaking up is hard.