Dear Pastor, You Can Keep Your Abusive Theology But Here’s What Might Happen

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Anyone else wonders what would happen if women (and men!) came to their own, pushed back against abusive theology and lived out the authentic Christ-centered gospel?

I think some churches would empty out.

What saddens me about spiritual manipulation, control, and awful theology is how the path to health and wholeness is labeled harmful. Those with power and influence have made sure to make freedom threatening, unattractive.

abusive theology

They do that by telling their congregations, listeners, and readers to “watch out” for “those feminists,” “false teachers,” “Jezebel spirits” (why there’s no Ahab spirit, I know not), “rebellious people,” “backsliders.”

Those labels? Applied to anyone affirming God’s design of no mind control, eggshells, exhaustion, exploitation, disembodiment, shame and anxiety, leader-devotion, or abuse.

Tagging the bearer of good news the enemy has meant the liberating knowledge itself will not be accepted, and people who need a drink of living water will hunker down in their cages. How do you get free when freedom is your enemy?

It makes me sad. Angry.

I’m looking forward to more people coming to the knowledge – deep down in their bones – that clarity is threatening to those invested in maintaining power.

Don’t wait for the day you’ll regain your health without causing ripples and upsets. Don’t wait for freedom to come from the pulpit or outside because sometimes the pulpit and outside is invested in keeping you in chains.

If your background is high control, exhausting Christianity, this might be one of the most challenging hurdles. But hear me.

You get to choose the right thing for yourself. Nobody owns you or your decision-making process. God gave you the lead. He didn’t give it to a pastor or leader. It’s your life to live.

At this point, I’m just looking forward to some pews emptying out. Leave the hardened pastor with their buildings, growth plans, precious biblical-but-devoid-of-Jesus-theology, and JUST BE FREE.

Abusive Theology: But What About Healthy Churches?

I know there are some good churches out there. Pastors who are trying to do better. Not every church is bent on holding on to abusive theology or ideas that harm. But let’s talk about that.

“Not my church,” “Not all churches,” “My pastor is amazing!” are common responses when I discuss how the church is not always available to meet women’s needs.

Here’s the thing. Just because some pastors are trying to do better doesn’t mean their actions are offsetting the unhealth of others. The transformation of some doesn’t neutralize all present negative consequences on women.

So when someone shares their unpleasant experience in their community or a faith leader, it is not the time to share personal “great” experiences to “balance” things out.*

What I find lacking in our Christian community is genuine curiosity and empathy. We won’t have them if we are constantly shying away from engaging with the lived experiences of others that are different from our own.

We need genuine empathy, followed by validating actions.

Yesterday, a commenter on Facebook shared her experience with her faith community (great thread, check it out!) which so many women can identify with.

She wrote: “I disclosed to my women’s group that my husband and I were in a difficult separation because of abuse, and the leader promptly prayed “that God would empower all of us to be more submissive to our husbands” no joke!”

Heartbreaking. Her experience with abusive theology is not a one-off. It is very common. I believer we can do better. We must do better.

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Stats and Scripture

“Family Studies have reported that 1-in-4 highly religious U.S. marriages have interpersonal violence. ..They found that in the U.S. (where the predominant religion is Christianity) there was no significant difference between religious and secular couples and interpersonal violence (IPV) in the current relationship. It came out to 1 in 4 couples, and nearly 1 in 4 men who claimed to be highly religious also claimed they had perpetrated violence on their partner. Source.

“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. Ephesians 5:3‭-‬13 NIV

Abusive Theology: Continue Reading

*Not saying sharing about good churches is a bad idea in general. This is specific to those who share their good experience with their church to invalidate the experiences of those who have had bad experiences with their church or to defend church conduct in general.

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