Category Archives: Religion’s Cell Articles

Breaking My Silence – Kaylen Young (Moyer)

(Warning, this post is incredibly long. This is the story of my family’s hardships at the hands of a toxic religious church. The point of view is more specifically from my sister, Erin and I, as we went through most of these trials together.)                                      

There’s something I need to say, I know I don’t say much on here, and I probably won’t ever do this again, but I feel like I need to at least get this out. It’s been weighing very heavily on my body and soul, and I feel like I need to release it. It’s not mine to hold onto anymore.

This past year I’ve started to remember something; something horrible that I have a hard time even thinking about. I was sexually abused by the pastor of the church we went to for 9 1/2 years. I never thought in a million years this would have happened to me, but at the same time, I knew. It’s so very confusing and my whole life has been turned upside-down. Although my life now makes sense, it still hurts. The only way I can describe the way I feel now, is that I’ve been sleeping for years and I’ve finally been awakened to this harsh reality. Though I’ve never felt so much pain in my entire life, I’ve never felt so alive and free. I finally know what was causing my pain and misery all this time. My fear of trusting, my lack of confidence, my self-hatred, my anger and hatred towards everything and everyone, my lack of motivation, my constant anxiety and fear of everything. He took everything from me. I’ve been dead-alive for 14 years.

My head has always been full of thoughts, but I’ve never been able to just slow down. For years I’ve kept myself too busy to stop and clear my head. I’ve always been too afraid to see what was in there, because deep down inside, I knew something wasn’t right. I couldn’t stand to be alone, I was too afraid… I couldn’t face it. And now I have to find myself and pick up all the pieces. I have no choice now but to face this, because I’ve let it control my life for far too long.

I never want to hurt another person because of this ever again, and I apologize to anyone that I’ve hurt over the years. I’m tired of being called mean, cold-hearted, and a bitch. THAT’S NOT ME! I never wanted to be mean and cold to anyone, and I felt so much guilt when I was. I didn’t know why I was so angry, but because of it I’ve always felt so isolated and alone. I honestly thought I would never meet anyone that I’d love or be able to connect with. I hated even the thought of love, and I wanted nothing to do with it until I started talking to Jacob in 2010. He’s helped me so much in so many ways. He’s shown me unconditional love, something that was lost in me over the years, and finally made me feel safe. He’s also shown me that there is still some good in this world, and that I can trust some people. And even though it’s been really rough (so sorry about that) and it took me 3 years to be able to trust him enough to marry him, I’m so glad I took that HUGE step. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.

Erin and I were always left out at church. The adults and teens would buy gifts for all the kids in the church but us. Everyone hated us, was mean to us, and talked bad about us. We had 2 or 3 friends, and even they weren’t real friends Any chance to be with the popular girls, and they’d leave us in a heartbeat. They would bully Erin and not me, because no one could affect me. I didn’t care what they thought, but somehow they knew that hurting my family was the only way to hurt me. They’d make fun of her weight, telling her that she was fat and disgusting, and that she’ll never get married because of it. I hated how often they would hurt her, and any chance I got I would defend her. But because of all the bullying she began to cut herself and became suicidal at age 8, all the way up until she was 17. It was Erin and I against the world, or at least it felt like it.

We’ve had a lot of hardships in our family over the years. In February of 2003, my youngest sister was born with a club foot. In December of 2003, my dad almost lost his leg. He was in the hospital for 4 or 5 days during Christmas, and a few more times for maintenance. In November of 2004, my baby brother was born with a rare heart defect called HLHS (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome) which is deadly if not caught within the first weeks of being born. My parents were in the hospital with him for the first 21 days of his life, and we didn’t get to see him for at least a week. Whenever they would go to the hospital for one of his surgeries, we’d have to stay with our grandparents. That was traumatizing. Our grandparents never really talked to us, and weren’t there for us. We couldn’t really do anything; we weren’t even allowed to shower when we wanted to. And on top of all that, whenever my parents were at the hospital, the whole church would target us and treat us horribly.

I remember a time at my grandparents house when Erin and I were eating pudding out of a can and we were talking about wanting to slice our tongues with the lid and bleed out and die, hoping maybe then someone would care. When my brother was 2 months old, he had a heart attack and a stroke, and almost died. When we got the news, we cried through the whole service, but no one cared. The best comfort we got was the church “favorite” patting my back and saying, “It’s ok.” But it was NOT ok. I didn’t know if my brother would make it through. The 2 women that we sat with wouldn’t even let Erin and I sit together. After that, all the kids had a party because we were all home schooled, and when they told us about it and we asked why they didn’t invite us, all they said was, “We thought you’d be too sad to come, and we didn’t want to bother you.” I told them we would’ve loved to come; that it would’ve lifted our spirits. They looked at me annoyed and told me, “Well then you should’ve told us!”

Another time, while my parents were in the hospital for my brother’s last open heart surgery, Erin and our best friend and I were just having fun building a snowman. Suddenly, the church “favorite” comes outside. (She had been crying for God knows what reason…) We offered to let her and her sister both build with us, trying to avoid any confrontation, (she had a reputation for snapping at people who tried to comfort her), her sister agreed, but she went back inside, enraged. My brother then heard her blubbering to her mom about something, and her mother said, “Rub their faces in the snow, throw snowballs at them!” The next time we came to church, our snowman was gone. We asked what happened to it and were told the “pastor’s” daughter had run it over. Then the church favorite slowly and precisely said, “Ha. Ha.” I didn’t know you could have so much hate behind two little words… but she did. It was pretty devastating. My mom had to call the “favorite’s” mom and confront her because she was being so horrible, all while my brother was in the ICU recovering from open heart surgery.  Thankfully, at this time, we were staying with our Aunt Terry, who loves and supports us still.

Now, we were really close with our best friend’s mom, because no one at the church liked her or her daughter, either. We would go over to their house all the time, and talk to her about everything. We were even close with her husband, and he was very quiet. He told our best friend to just invite Erin and I to her birthday party, because he knew we were good friends. But in September of 2005 he died of “unknown causes”. May of 2006, our best friend’s mom started spending more time with the other women, and began to turn on us. June of 2006, Erin went to junior camp by herself, because I was 13 at this time and couldn’t go. I begged her not to go, but she was being pressured into feeling that she had to. At first it was pleasant, and it seemed like everyone wanted her to be there, but once they all got there, everything changed. She started to get emotional and cry a lot, and she was on her period and had an infection at the time, and couldn’t swim with her friends. So her friends left her with the adult women who just slept the entire 30 minutes of the only free time she got. They also forced her to play soccer even though she didn’t feel good.

They were so insensitive about her emotional distress, and one particular moment that set her off was when they went to swim for free time. She decided to accompany her friends, because anything was better than staying in the cabin with all the sleeping adults. She tried to participate as much as she was able, but it wasn’t the same. She felt like she didn’t even exist to her friends. They barely acknowledged her, only focusing on enjoying themselves. Obviously feeling depressed, she sat by a puddle, her head hanging low. That’s when the church “favorite’s” mom approached her and said, with a sadistic smile, “Oh, quit being such a baby.” Erin got up and walked away. From that moment on, she knew something wasn’t right, and the next day it was completely confirmed.

There had been a storm that day, and all the girls were forced to stay in the cabin for free time. Erin was ecstatic. She would finally get to spend some time with her friends. But at the last minute, her best friend and the church’s “favorite” came in the door and shouted, “The pool is open!” Another friend, who was just about to draw with Erin, immediately put the notebook down and ran out the door with the rest of them. Erin was heartbroken, and started to cry quietly. Just then, our best friend’s mom came up to her and tried to “comfort” her. But it wasn’t comforting in the least. She snapped at her, and compared Erin crying over her friends leaving her, to our best friend’s mom losing her husband. Erin was devastated. The loss of her best friend’s father had impacted her deeply, and she felt horrible, feeling as if her emotional outburst was pathetic compared to how this grown woman handled her husband’s death. She stopped crying and tried to have a “better attitude”.

But the very next day, the church’s “favorite” started to try and memorize one of the final verses for the week, but she couldn’t do it no matter how hard she tried, and threw herself into her pillow and began to weep. Instantly, all the women gathered around her and began rubbing her back and comforting her. Especially our best friend’s mom, who had just lectured Erin the previous day for being too emotional over things that don’t matter. But here was this girl, sobbing over a Bible verse, sobbing because she couldn’t be number one every year in a row, and the entire cabin seemed to be stricken with grief over it.

After that, Erin decided she was done. No longer would she participate and smile through it. She knew now that she was just a burden. Her tears were meaningless, and her distress was out of line. Even though she was only depressed because she was in immense pain (on top of all the pain from her time-of-the-month and an infection, she also got food poisoning from the poor-quality camp food), her friends had abandoned her and the adults singled her out for every emotion she exhibited. From that moment on, her attitude changed. She was no longer sad and depressed, but angry and defiant. Which is shocking, because Erin has always been incredibly passive, and it takes a lot to make her lash out. So much more happened that I don’t have time to explain, but suffice it to say, they straight-up bullied Erin. And from then on it only got worse for her. She became a target, and that only made me more angry.

After that we didn’t go to camp again. Even before this incident, we absolutely hated junior camp. It was torturous, but we always felt guilty if we didn’t go. But that changed in the summer of 2009, when the “pastor” convinced us to go to teen camp for the first time. I’m still not really sure why he tried so hard to get us to go to camp… maybe it was his way of trying to break us. Things were really hostile at this time, but he told us if this one girl who we couldn’t stand treated us badly at camp, he’d kick her out of the church, so of course we were convinced to go. Plus we just wanted him to get away from us and shut up. We never cared for him, and it wasn’t until 3 years after we left that we truly found out why, and not til last year that I found out why I couldn’t stand him. So when we went, the girl we couldn’t stand “just happened” to get re-saved after the teen leaders and us had a talk with her. That’s when it really started getting bad.

After we got back from camp, everyone flocked around us and said Erin and I had improved so much, and were the best kids in the teen class. Until we started to see that the girl hadn’t changed at all. We tried to bring it up to the teen leaders, but no one else believed us. That’s when we really started to lose everyone. Our best friend wasn’t allowed to hang out with us anymore because her mother said that this girl was way more spiritual than Erin and I. We were at another “pastor’s” church when she told us this, and we completely broke down. The teen leader’s wife comforted us and told us not to give up on her, because we had come so far. Later, Erin confided in her about some very serious matter- she was finally opening up about being suicidal. After spilling all of the details, including writing statements about her suicide attempts, the teen leader who said she loved us so much distanced herself from us, and wouldn’t even talk to us anymore. We were very confused, and didn’t know what was going on. Another one of our friends came to us crying, saying she wasn’t allowed to hang out with us because Erin was crazy. So we were even more isolated and alone.

The situation that pretty much broke us both was a youth activity about a month before we left, to a Biblical wax museum. Everyone completely avoided us, even our “best friend”. Erin was throwing up all day. As we were walking through the place, Erin said, “I don’t think I can do this, what if I have to throw up again?” The teen leader was standing by an exit sign laughing, and said jokingly, “Well there’s an exit, you can use that.” That was it, I’d had enough of people treating Erin like shit. We stayed away from them for the rest of the day, and whenever they’d move on to the next scene, we’d go to another one without them. It was obvious we weren’t happy with them, but not one person came to see if we were all right, except a Filipino missionary that we didn’t even know! After that, they went to the next museum, and we stayed behind and ranted about how ridiculous they were treating us. When it was time to leave, they had forgotten us… everyone was already in the van, and the teen leader’s wife had to come get us. We went to some place to eat and asked our “best friend” to sit with us, but she refused, preferring to sit with the popular girls. So we asked the teen leader’s wife if we could use her cellphone to call our mom, and we went to the bathroom, called Mom, and cried uncontrollably. It was awful. When the teen leader’s wife came in, she just looked at us coldly while we were visibly shaken and crying, and said, “Are you done?” Thankfully, at the time, we had someone who cared about us, and they were ordered to drop us off at her house.

Come to find out, the teen leader had gotten a hold of the information Erin had given the teen leader’s wife in confidence. He took it to the “pastor”, who made her look crazy, and everyone was ordered to stay away from her. He wanted her dead, because dead victims can’t speak, and he was going to blame it on my dad not being home all the time. (He had a full-time job and worked on my grandparents farm. We didn’t get to see him very often, but we knew he loved us, and he was absolutely NOT the reason Erin was suicidal.) When my parents found that out, they immediately went to the “pastor” and talked to him. That’s when all hell broke loose. But they couldn’t get very far, because he was very unreasonable, and it caused a lot of problems in our family for the couple of weeks that we were still there. The day we finally left, it wasn’t really by choice. They chased us out. My dad was apologizing to some people for getting pulled into something that they didn’t understand. The “pastor” had brought them into one of my dad’s and his private conversations. When he apologized to the “pastor’s” wife she said, “You’ve got a demon, I can see it in your eyes.” and eventually accepted his apology. As my dad was apologizing to the deacon and his wife, his wife said “I just want you to know, that no matter what you say or what you do, we are behind pastor 100%.”  (She is now the “pastor’s” new wife.) After the deacon accepted my dad’s apology, he immediately went to the “pastor” and told him what was going on. The “pastor” comes out of his office screaming at my dad. 3 men; the pastor, the assistant pastor/teen leader, and the deacon, were surrounding both my parents at this time. The “pastor” said that my dad was sowing discord, the assistant pastor/teen leader called him “Korah”, and told him that we were the worst kids in the teen class. My dad said (Talking to the “pastor”) “You would not even care if Erin was hanging from the ceiling one day!” and he said in a condescending tone, “She wouldn’t do that.” and my dad said, “You’re the one that started it, by telling everyone that the journal was demon possessed and needed to be taken out of the building.” and then the “pastor” got in my dad’s face and said “What were YOU trying to do about it!?” and my dad said, “I was just trying to get some help!” and the deacon got in my dad’s face, trying to intimidate him. The women were hiding in nursery, and Erin and I were in the kitchen, crying and being comforted by the person who cared about us. She told us that she loved and cared about us, and would be there for us even if we left. By this time, the bus captains came back from their route, and joined in; physically restraining my dad as the conflict moved to the parking lot. Every man present, continued the attack on my dad, until he saw it was a futile battle. As my dad walked away, he said, “You can have your church, we’ll see how long it lasts!” My mom came in the kitchen after everything and told us to get in the van, because my dad was at a store parking lot crying. We didn’t know what to feel, we had no idea what was going on, but we knew it wasn’t good. We didn’t know that would be our last day there, but thank God it was!

I’ve never met so many horrible people in my entire life. I don’t know what makes them feel like they have a right to abuse a child, just because the “pastor” says so. How sadistic and brainless do you have to be to do that!? We were completely harmless, we’d never do anything to hurt another human being. Why did they feel the need to destroy us? I wonder what they’d do if they knew that the reason he turned them against us was just to cover up his heinous crimes? Or maybe they already know and don’t care… I can’t even comprehend their evilness.

Now since then, we’ve lost everyone we knew there. The woman who said she cared about us, all of our “friends”, and even one of our family members who still goes there even though this “pastor” has been arrested 2 times for rape. She and her husband believe that he is innocent, yet they haven’t come to talk to our family ONCE! I don’t understand why someone so close to us would believe him over her own family… not to mention, she’s the reason the “pastor” sexually assaulted Erin and I in the first place. She’d always take us to church and then do her own thing, leaving us vulnerable for anyone to get a hold of us.

I don’t remember a LOT of my childhood, but I do know that I was the reason we started going to that church. I told my mom I wanted to go, and I distinctly remember saying it, and being very emotional and full of fear. I now know the reason I asked was because not only was I scared to go to Hell, but I believe he had already abused me, and God impressed upon my heart to go. I used to beat myself up and blame myself for wanting to go there, but I now realize if we wouldn’t have, who knows where we’d be right now. Even though it was a terrible experience and nearly destroyed us all, it opened our eyes to the truth, it helped bring us closer together as a family, and it brought these amazing people into our lives: Jacob, Matt, AshLeigh, and Audra. I know that if I didn’t have such an amazing family, I wouldn’t be here right now.

I do not blame God or church for what has happened in me and my family’s lives at the hands of church people, but instead it’s opened my eyes to the reality that organized religion is wrong. (Now, I’ve never been to a good church, so if you have a good church that you believe is helpful, then by all means, stay. I’m not saying you can’t go to church, I just don’t agree with a lot of the things church people do. But I do believe in being spiritual and having a close relationship with God, the Universe, the Great Divine, whatever you want to call him. And that’s a journey you have to take on your own; no one should tell you what to believe.) And I believe organized religion is wrong because it uses fear and lies to control people. It tells us we are bad by nature, and that there’s no good in us. Well then, we’re totally helpless, and all we can do is accept that we’re just eternally doomed for hell. No matter how good we act, we are disgusting and rotten at the core. If that’s the case, then we’re helpless to save ourselves from some inevitable, horrible fate. So in your darkest hour, they give you hope, a band-aid for an open wound. They tell you to let “god” in, read your Bible and pray, go to church, keep your eyes on Jesus, and allow him in all his goodness to influence your terrible self into being good. Not to mention salvation from a certain damnation. Empty words to keep us disconnected from the true God. But it’s all a clever guise, because religion isn’t God, it’s man. It allows a human to have complete control over your mind.

The real God is like the wind, a gentle reminder saying, “Life is hard, but I’m still here. Enjoy the beauty around you and just keep trying to do better.” It never abuses you or tears you down. It doesn’t need to, because if you discover anything in life, it’s that love is the best teacher, and you can be as good as you want to be. And the reason religious people discredit free-thinkers is because they’re showing you a permanent fix for happiness, and that you can no longer be controlled by fear, because you just embrace it and move on. You have the knowledge that hey, I AM good enough, I can be amazing all on my own, I can make the right decisions for my life, and if I don’t… well, it doesn’t mean death and hell. It just means I need to try harder and be the best I can be. Even if you screw up in life, the earth doesn’t stop feeding you and providing for you. It doesn’t withhold, it stays the same. That’s God, that’s love. ^^ (Obviously if you nuke the earth it won’t provide, but that’s a totally different scenario, lol.) And in my life, when I was truly on the verge of letting go, the earth just seemed to know. The cats would be extra cute and cuddly, the air felt inviting and warm… there was always something I couldn’t explain about it. Then I realized, I knew God all along in my life. I would wake up early to enjoy the morning and all its beauty. I would wander around and just be happy. But then church took God and perverted him into some man-like being, who was just as sick as the men around us. It got all screwed up. And now I look back and realize God was there all along. I just forgot his face amidst all the fear, guilt, and control… but now I remember. ^^

The group of church people that we’ve been around have treated us the worst we have ever been treated, in our most low and vulnerable times, just because the “pastor” said so. They just blindly follow him because he’s the “man of God” and he can do no wrong. They go to him about every little thing in their life, not wanting to think for themselves, because it’s too hard to think for yourself, it’s more convenient to get advice from someone else who SAYS they know God. The idea of one man “called by God” preaching at you, telling you how to feel about yourself, and what to think and feel about God is dangerous. You were given a brain for a reason; to use it! Don’t just blindly believe everything the Bible says. Whether you want to believe it or not, MAN wrote the Bible. The only words that Jesus spoke were in the New Testament, and he never told you to go to church or gave you a bunch of rules, he just wanted you to love yourself and anyone around you. We need to stop focusing so much on sin and how “bad” we are, and start realizing we are all amazing human beings who don’t deserve Hell like we’ve been taught. We need to focus on loving people, regardless of gender, race, or sexuality. We need to see everyone for what they are- beautiful and broken. And how will they get any better if all we do is judge and hate them for what they do? We all deserve respect. Who are we to judge? We all make mistakes, and to judge others for making mistakes differently than you is horribly hypocritical. We all have the same goal in life; to be happy. So stop and think about that other person and what they could be going through before you judge them. Our insecurities are getting in the way of loving and connecting with others. We hate everyone around us because we feel bad about ourselves. You’re hurting them without even knowing them by making them feel less. Most of the time the only one who thinks those negative things about you is yourself, and it’s so damaging to think that way. Give yourself a break, you’ve been through a lot. We all have. The horrible things you think about yourself aren’t true. We are all beautiful!

I wasn’t planning on telling this much of our story, but as I started writing, I couldn’t stop. And this is only a small portion of what we went through, it’s too much to write it all. All these things have been hidden within our family, but nobody would listen.

We’ve been told we were dramatic, but in reality, it’s not drama, it’s trauma. We’ve been called bitter countless times by ex-members, because we stood up for the truth, and didn’t just let go and let God take care of them, but are we not God’s mouthpiece? If he saw this great injustice, wouldn’t he speak up, too? The things that this man has done to Erin, my family, and I are un-forgivable. We aren’t bitter, we just have indignation towards this huge injustice that was done to our family by this vile, wretched, repulsive, atrocious, depraved creature. Words can’t even describe his true nature. And if the sexual abuse itself isn’t evil enough, the words he says are just as evil, if not more so, and murderous to the soul. He is a murderer of innocent souls, and I believe he is the devil in disguise. I know Erin and I are not the only victims of his abuse, and I want him to know this: “We will no longer be silent, and your day is coming despite your denial.”

We are Not Entitled to Anything

We are not Entitled to Anything

entitlement picOne of the prevailing attitudes in society today is the attitude of “entitlement.” Countless multitudes of people believe that they are “owed” or “deserve” things based on who they are or what they have done.  As an adult, I often find myself saying, “I deserve better than what has been handed me.” Sometimes, I have even felt I deserved the love and respect of my children as their parent. However, I no longer feel that I am owed or deserve better in life; nor do I feel that I deserve, or am owed, my children’s love or respect. Let me explain.

Today’s culture has instilled a mindset of entitlement here in the U.S. Advertisers are very adept at telling us what we deserve. We are taught that because of ______, we deserve _____.  You can fill in the blanks.  However, this is not true. As hard as it may be for you to hear this, no one is entitled to, or deserves, anything.

By way of example, I will use my relationship with my husband to show you how destructive this attitude can be.

My husband worked very hard for his employers. As a matter of fact, he worked on average about 70 hours per week, year in and year out, all our married lives. There were countless weeks where he exceeded that 70 hours and he continually brought his work home and let it interrupt “our time” together. He has always had a fantastic work ethic and has even instilled the same work ethic in our children.  This said, when he did have any amount of time with me at home, he felt he “deserved” to be catered to and waited on by me for whatever he wanted. He didn’t feel he needed to do any work at home.  After all, because he worked so hard at his job, he felt he was “entitled” to not fix things around the house or help me with anything at all!  He made me feel like a servant in my own home when he was off!   If I did not do what he wanted, then he would get angry at me and we would end up in a fight. He felt “entitled” to do nothing and be catered to.

While he was working, I was taking care of the kids, the pets, the house, the yard, the finances, the grocery shopping, kids activities, church responsibilities, etc. My days were just as full as his with stuff to get done every day – and night, if the kids were sick! He expected me to work a minimum of 8 hrs a day every day and if I didn’t, he would get angry.  I felt I deserved and was “entitled” to be treated better than a hired servant and, I felt I deserved to have more of his time too!

While my husband was “expecting” certain things from me, I was “expecting” certain things from him. When either of us did not get what we expected, it caused us to get angry and argue. This “I deserve and am entitled to” attitude was further exacerbated by the teachings of the churches we served in. The women were degraded to nothing more than servants to their husbands and the men ate it up! They felt entitled to a sex slave, a servant, a cook, a housekeeper, a bookkeeper, a teacher to the kids, and so much more! This led to lots of arguments, it led to abuses. Eventually, it almost led us to divorce! Because we both felt we were “entitled” to be treated a certain way, we would get angry when we weren’t.

As a result, our marriage began to crumble.  When our marriage began to fall apart and my husband realized he was about to lose me, he had a change of heart and attitude. My husband suddenly realized that he did not “deserve” anything from me! He stopped taking me for granted and began to treat me with genuine love and compassion without expecting anything in return. Did he “want” my love and companionship? Yes. But he was no longer demanding it!  He would tell me, “Honey, I love you so much. I don’t deserve your love, or you. But if you choose to love me, I will be the happiest man alive.” His change in attitude and actions toward me opened my eyes to my expectations of him and helped me to see that I needed to eliminate any expectations in my mind!

As a result of letting go of what we each felt “we deserved,” our relationship developed into a respectful, caring and loving relationship that transcended anything we had ever experienced before in our marriage.

The “we want” mentality, instead of “I demand,” led to each of us appreciating the little and big things that each of us did for each other on a daily basis. When you expect and don’t get, it causes anger and resentment; or worse, bitterness! When you want something and don’t get it, it just causes disappointment. Disappointment is much easier to deal with than anger and bitterness! My husband does not “owe” me his love. Do I want his love? Yes. Because I want his love, I treat him with loving care and do not get angry because he works all the time. I also go out of my way to please him and he does the same for me.  Because he wants my love, he doesn’t expect me to wait on him like a servant and instead, pitches in on his off days to do what I need help with and, even give me a break!  It’s okay to want things, but we have no right to demand, expect, or feel entitled to anything. It’s okay to want better; but it’s not right to feel entitled to better.  Am I making sense here? The difference in attitude is a huge difference! It determines how we act and react toward others.

When we feel “entitled,” we do not appreciate what we have and, we become angry, resentful, and bitter toward others when they do not meet our expectations of what we think we deserve. It also causes us to take for granted what we do have and what we do have then becomes not good enough.  When we want something, and do not get it, we are simply disappointed and move on to something else.

We are not entitled to anything. Entitlement produces anger, resentment and bitterness. It is a kiss of death to a relationship. If you want a sure path to destruction, just believe you are entitled to something. Entitlement thinking will cause people to neglect the emotional and physcial needs of others while focusing entirely on themselves and their wants and needs.  This is selfishness personified!  The sooner we let go of this mentality, the sooner life becomes new and relationships blossom.

The Most Ignored Commandment

Lev19_15The Most Ignored Commandment

“in justice shall you judge your fellow man” (Lev. 19:15 – Heb) Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour. (Lev. 19:15- KJV) You must do no injustice in a case, neither showing partiality to the poor nor deferring to the powerful, but judging your fellow fairly (Lev. 19:15 – AAT)

Many read this commandment and automatically assume it only applies to magistrates. In making this assumption, people fail to realize this commandment requires everyone to be fair in their judgment of others. There is no room for prejudice within the scope of this command. Everyone, no matter their economic status, their educational background, their sex, or their religion, must be treated equally and fairly. In today’s society, such a thing as fair treatment has been lost in the attempt for control, power, or revenge.

In order to be fair, we are not allowed to listen to the side of one person without the other person being present. It is wrong to talk about someone to people and make them look bad when they are not there to defend themselves.

“You shall not go about spreading slander among your kinsmen; nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake . . . (Lev. 19:16 – NAB) “Don’t gossip. Don’t falsely accuse your neighbor of some crime . . . (Lev. 19:16 – Tay) “Do not whisper calumnies in the public ear, and swear away thy neighbor’s life . . . (Lev. 19:16 Knox)

We are also not allowed to judge a person based on the one-sided information. Sadly, most people today, ignore this command regarding justice. Instead, what we find are countless individuals who are harsh and unfair. While this is true in all of society, I have found this especially true among God’s people and this should not be so. Let me explain.

There are many of God’s people (doesn’t matter the religious affiliation) who have a higher regard for their own character than of those they judge. Let that statement sink in for a moment. Not only do people regard their own character above others, but many also believe religiosity determines character.  Religiosity does not establish character! Yet, religious people have a belief that the non-religious lack character and/or ethics.  This is very sad.

Also, many religious people judge themselves based on their good intentions and others by their actions. For example, if we don’t visit a friend or relative in the hospital, we usually rationalize in our mind that it’s okay. After all, I “wanted to go visit them, but didn’t have the time.” My intentions were good! Yet, when we are in the hospital and others don’t visit us, we don’t spend the time rationalizing excuses for the non-visitors. Instead, we judge them by their actions and become offended because they did not take the time to visit us.

Many people also judge themselves by their intentions when their actions are bad. If they are being rude, callous, hateful, condescending, hurtful, etc., they rationalize in their mind that their behavior is justified because they are doing so in righteous anger on God’s behalf toward the offending soul. Hurting and/or judging others because they don’t believe or act like you is wrong. Hurting others because they sin differently than you is also wrong. Just because your intentions are good, does not justify unethical treatment and bad attitude toward others.

Have you ever been wronged by a person who saw nothing hurtful about their attitude or behavior toward you? I have – too many times to count. And, sadly, I have dished out the same and rationalized in my mind the deplorable attitude I meted out. Oh, how I wish I could go back and retract my words!

When I was in the fundamentalist Baptist religion, we were taught by example how to mete out judgment and condemnation to the point that we even dished it out upon those who were dealing with tragedy in their lives. Why would we do such a thing? Because we were taught, for non-believers, that tragedy was God’s hand of judgment for sin in their life. This belief affected our thoughts and behaviors toward that individual and caused us to judge them unfairly. I say this with much sadness. We condemned and judged those who did not believe or act as we did while being compassionate and understanding toward those who DID believe and act as we did. We had a double standard! The same tragedy on an unbeliever was dealt with differently than that of a believer! Thus, we stood guilty of breaking God’s commandments.   And to top it off, we had no facts to base our assumptions on, only the “word” of our religious leaders. Sadly, this realization brings me much sorrow as I reflect on the negative talk many of my preachers said about so many good people. As a result of this gossip, these precious people were shunned and the attitudes of the rest of their church family toward them inflicted much hurt. To the hurting, this is secondary abuse and many do not realize it.

How sad when we hurt the people we love most and rationalize our behavior; and, when we are confronted by our harsh treatment, we make excuses. What is even sadder is when we hurt the already hurting by violating this commandment; even worse, is when we do psychological and bodily harm to those we judge because they act or believe differently than we do! We are quick to judge, we are quick to reach a negative conclusion about others, and we are quick to condemn.

It only takes one negative action on the part of a good person and we rush to crush them. Wow. Have we deteriorated to such an extent in our humanity that we rush so quickly to condemnation? Where is the compassion and love that causes us to be longsuffering toward others? If we truly followed God’s command to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” we would not be passing judgment on others so quickly. Instead, we would be seeking out excuses for their behavior in the same way we do for ourselves. In doing so, it would cause us to be more compassionate, longsuffering, and forgiving.

If we are not in a position to know both sides and the facts of a situation involving two people, don’t make a judgment about either!  NEVER believe someone else’s negative words aimed at discrediting another! In most instances, guaranteed, they will be slanted to the accuser’s agenda! ALWAYS stand back and wait if you are not privy to the side of both parties and the facts!  To believe a one-sided view, will cause us to automatically gravitate to a hostile standpoint. Once our mind becomes hostile toward and individual, there is nothing too cruel that they deserve and we will gladly dish out that cruelty. It breaks my heart to see God’s people dishing out cruelty in his name.

Of course there are instances where we will find ulterior motives too. While many may be subtle, still there are others that are hard to ignore. For example, there are religious organizations and people that provide aid or benefits to the less fortunate in order to build a following or recruit members. An example of this would be a church bus route that uses candy and prizes to entice children to church in order to get to the parents. The ultimate goal is to get the parents as members so they can give money to the church. Some organizations also provide aid in order to sexually exploit women and children. In these instances, we should not judge favorably until restitution is made to the victims. There are even some that extend aid to the less fortunate for murder. An example of this would be terrorist organizations. Hamas provides clothing, food, and other forms of aid to the poor in order to gain a following that will enable them to recruit suicide bombers. These suicide bombers are used to hurt and murder those whom Hamas hates.  Also, beware of those individuals that extend to you their aid and then call in the ‘favor’ later.

We should never condemn a person based on hearsay. We should always check out both sides of the matter before assuming the worst about a person or attacking them. To do otherwise is not only foolish, it is unethical and, makes you complicit in the sin! “You shall not nurse hatred against your brother. You shall reprove your fellow-countryman frankly and so you will have no share in his guilt (Lev. 19:17 – NEB) Beware of those who gossip! Don’t believe what you hear! Always give the other person the benefit of the doubt until you have both sides of a story as well as the facts. I cannot express how often I hear bad things about good people. I cannot express adequately the pain this brings me.  I remember one time where I was discarded as a friend because I refused to believe what I was told about another friend of mine and continued friendship with the accused.  I had both sides of the story and the facts showed the accusation against this person to be false.  Sadly, this is the risk we take for judging fairly by those who do not. We may lose friends.

I have made a choice that I intend to live by. I will not believe gossip and slander. I will patiently wait and assess the facts for myself and make a decision based on those facts. Sadly, many don’t understand why I do this and criticize me because of it.  What I have found is that in almost every instance to date, with a little patience and some digging, I was told wrong information with the intent to create animosity or, the accuser made big assumptions based on someone else’s opinion! In other instances, it was a matter of a poor decision that hurt others and the individual was literally crucified for it, even after apologizing and making restitution for the mistake made. When gossip is believed, it can incite people to violence against the victim. I have witnessed this first hand with many religious abuse survivors. Usually, when this has happened, the gossip was being spread in order to silence truth. This incitement breaks another commandment: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18 – KJV).

This leads me to another area of concern – that of passing on negative or defamatory information to those who don’t need to know it. Usually, this is done to destroy a person’s character so that no one will believe what they have to say. Many institutions utilize character assassination in order to silence truth; especially if the truth exposes their wrongdoings. Those who judge others unfairly and spread gossip, commit a far greater sin than the wrong for which they are condemning in someone else. Usually, the religious, will disguise their slander and gossip under the mantle of “pray for so-and-so because . . .” Beware of those people who do such things. Don’t believe what they say!

“If you do not judge others fairly, how can you be judged fairly in your time of need? The Talmud promises a divine reward to those who judge in a merciful manner: “He who judges his fellow man favorably is himself judged favorably [by God]” (Shabbat 127b). On the other hand, those who judge harshly will be judged similarly: “In the measure with which a man measures, so is he measured” (Sotah 8b)” [A Code of Jewish Ethics]. We must be careful about passing judgment on others because, in reality, it will really be ourselves we may be judging.

Since the Bible teaches that “There is no person on earth so righteous, who will do only good and not sin” (Ecclesiastes 7:20), we should not set standards for others that neither they nor we can meet. All of us occasionally stray off path. It would be wrong to attack, label, gossip or shun such a one because of a sin committed (unless it’s a wrong of huge proportions or is a deliberate attempt at destroying another), or because they have done something we don’t like.  Usually, in this category of sins of ‘huge proportion,’  would fall rape, murder, slander, sexual assault, physical assault and those attempts at destroying the life and liveliness of others.  Any others I would assess less harshly.

In order to judge fairly, it often involves overlooking insignificant matters. On the other hand, if someone is repeatedly mistreating you, then it is probably a good idea to break ties with that individual. It is not a good idea to tell everyone you know about their behavior toward you. There may be a valid reason why this person treats you so unfairly. Just because they treat you this way does not automatically mean they will treat others the same way.  Also, if we are going to criticize flaws in others that we ourselves have, we should first acknowledge the flaws in ourselves so that we will be less harsh in our criticism.

What is best? To not judge at all. We should avoid having strong feelings and views on too many subjects. Those who are quick to condemn and judge usually believe that there is only one right way and one wrong way. They do not understand that there are many right ways and many wrong ways. How something is done is based on preference.  So before passing unfair judgment on others, or spreading that gossip about them, remember this: You are not as good as you think you are, and the world is not as bad as you think it is. Don’t judge others unfairly and don’t let other’s opinions influence you to judge unfairly no matter what position that person holds. Treat everyone with dignity, compassion, honesty, respect, and love.

 

Candidly Speaking

realitycheckaheadCandidly Speaking

For over 18 years, my life revolved around ‘serving God’ in a fundamentalist religious sect. I never dreamed or considered that it might be a cult. After all, who sets out to join a cult? Time and time again, my husband and I ignored the many ‘red flags of abuse’ to follow and please Christ. After all, pleasing God is the most important thing in life, right? We all want God’s hand of protection and blessing in our lives. We sincerely believed there was nothing more important than being ‘right with God.’ And of course, this is something that is hammered home in every sermon preached. But what does ‘being right with God’ mean? Think about it. If Jesus died to take away the sin of the WORLD, then we are all “right with God” through Christ — There is therefore now no condemnation. Christ is not the Savior of a few, but Savior of ALL. He said so himself. So what does “right with God” mean if Jesus already made us ‘right.’ This is a thought to be considered.

And, WHY do we need to be ‘right with God?’  We don’t have to be ‘right with God’ to go to heaven.  God does not require perfection to please him.  So, is it to gain his hand of protection and blessing?  And if this is the case, then who is it that determines our wrongness to the extent we need to ‘get right?’ Religion would have us to believe we are wrong with God because we are sinful. Does this mean our sins cause us to forfeit God’s hand of protection and blessing?  We all know unsaved people who are quite blessed.  Many of us were blessed BEFORE we believed. So this can’t be the reason.

I was taught by religion we were all born into sin and needed forgiveness of those sins.  Well of course religion would say that! But God says we, and our sins, were bought and paid for thousands of years ago and our sins are not held against us. Because of Christ, we are forgiven. So, how can we be wrong with God if our sins are no longer held against us from birth? And does God treat certain people differently based on this ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness?’ Is God partial? After all, some do teach he blesses those who are right with him and troubles those who are not.  If this was true, then God would be partial and He himself says he is not partial.  So who on this planet determines what makes us right or what makes us wrong with God? Who determines the rules and beliefs we need to adhere to in order to please him? Well, of course, religion does that, right?

But what does God say pleases him? Faith. That’s it plus nothing.

So, all we have to do to please God is believe and trust in Him? Yep.

God has already told us we are right with him through Christ but religion just wants to make double sure we are? Or, could it be that religion is out for itself? Could money, power, control, prestige, and sexual dominance be influencing religion? One certainly has to wonder this.

What many of us fail to understand is that we already have God’s hand of protection and blessing regardless of what we do. He rains trial and blessing on the just and the un-just the same way. He is not partial or biased. He is not prejudiced. He is no respecter of persons. He treats everyone as equal. He does not practice sexual discrimination. He does not practice ethnic discrimination. He does not practice religious discrimination. He only bases his decisions on one thing and one thing only – HIS UNCONDITIONAL LOVE toward us. God chooses love over everything else because God IS love. Love gives freely, shows compassion, edifies; is merciful, patient, longsuffering, kind and humble. God exercises all these things with us freely regardless of what we do. We just have to partake of the treasure of his love for ourselves to live in fullness. There is not one single sin that can separate us from the love of God – not one! The price for sin has been paid and the work for the salvation of the world is finished. Sadly, there are many who don’t believe his work is finished; or worse, that he really didn’t mean it when he says he died once, for ALL. Some even believe he did not pay the penalty for ALL sins and live their lives exercising their prejudice and animosity against those who commit  certains sins. They actually judge people who sin differently than they do, not realizing sin is sin and they are sinners too! There is none perfect, no not one.

Please notice that I said “salvation of the world” and not salvation of those who believe. Christ died for all sin and all sinners. There are no exceptions. He is the savior of all and “especially of those that believe.” He didn’t say he is only the savior of those who believe! Non-belief does not null and void this free gift to ALL. It is a gift to all and we must remember that. EVERY knee shall bow and EVERY tongue shall confess Jesus as Lord (This happens AFTER physical death.).  Religion would have us believe we need to accept the free gift – that this gift is not yours unless you accept it here and now. Here we go again putting conditions on God’s UNCONDITIONAL and all-inclusive love!  Religion teaches it cannot be accepted after death, the teaching of which, is nowhere stated in scripture – interesting.  Isn’t it amazing how man continually wants to limit God?  By teaching this, religion is effectively saying salvation is exclusive. Really? What part of “all” does religion not understand, I wonder? God’s gift is ALL-inclusive while man’s teaching about him and his gift is exclusive.

The reality is that Jesus died whether we like it or not to pay our sin debt whether we believe it or not. Jesus died for my sin before I ever heard of him. I was already a child of his before I knew him and before I believed he was the Savior. But religion will argue this point, of course.

Religion also wants me to believe in hell so strongly that it instills fear and ascribes to God a merciless character trait. Religion wants me to believe God is cruel, heartless, torturous, vengeful and full of uncontrollable wrath – all of this disquised by the term ‘Justice.’  hmmm…  I believe Hell is a masterful tool used to manipulate and control others through fear (Read my book on this topic.).

Religion also hates those who oppose its doctrines and rules. It will slander and harass you until you concede and conform to its beliefs. If you don’t concede, it will hurt you and incite its members to violence against you. Sadly, some religions will even try to murder you if you don’t come around to their way of thinking and believing. Ever heard of “convert or die?” It’s taking place right now with ISIS and, it took place during the Reformation and Inquisition.

Religion would also have us believe its particular BRAND of Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Islam, Buddhist, must be followed to enjoy God’s hand of blessing. Religion teaches us to adhere to its many rules and restrictions. Religion proliferates and teaches inequality. Religion teaches us we can never be good enough in God’s eyes because we are just that sinful. Religion is biased. Religion is prejudiced. Religion propagates hate and harm toward those who disagree or live differently. Religion is racist. Religion is a separatist. Religion corrupts scripture. Religion is a murderer. Religion is abusive. Religion dehumanizes. Religion divides. Religion slanders. Religion is operated and controlled by human beings for personal gain, not God.  Religion is not patient, compassionate, merciful, or kind unless you are a part of its MEMBERSHIP; and even then, you may not be extended these things!

Religion teaches people how to exercise CONDITIONAL love. Therefore, multitudes do not truly know God even though they spend their lives trying to serve him with all they have. Let that sink in for a moment. To only love those who love and believe as you do is conditional love. That’s not God. While we were yet sinners Christ died. While we were sinners, he loved us. Religion is responsible for so many evil attitudes, behaviors and beliefs! Remember that more people have been murdered, tortured, maimed and killed because of religion than in war. Look at what is taking place in Syria and Iraq! RELIGION is the reason these men are raping and murdering women, crucifying the men, and beheading and starving the children! God has no part in that, yet they are doing it in the name of God and their religion. These terrorists are taught that human beings who are not of their BRAND are worthless and worthy of sexual abuse, torture and murder (dehumanization)?  Really?  I would not want to associate with a God who condones such things. I would not want to spend eternity in the presence of such an EVIL entity. Would you? Think about it? If you have to commit atrocities in his name and harm others to please him, why would anyone want to associate with Him or you? We have to remind ourselves that God is no respecter of persons. God is no respecter of religion. God does not care what BRAND you are because he loves you unconditionally.  BUT, religion IS a respecter of persons, brand, and religious affiliation. RELIGION wants you to believe that God is a hating, murderous, vindictive entity that will ‘get you’ if you don’t follow religion’s rules, beliefs, dogmas, precepts and commands;  or, if you don’t convert to their BRAND.

What we fail to consider is that religion is man-made. It is not God made.  When Jesus walked the earth, were there Catholics? Were there Methodists? Were there Baptists? Were there Pentecostals? Were there Mormons?  Religion is a tool used by people to control others and to extract personal gain. If you don’t think it is, think again! Religion wants to dictate your life.  For example: There is nothing wrong with meeting together to worship. There is everything wrong in telling people WHEN and HOW they can worship. Religion has everyone successfully brainwashed into believing they can only worship God in religious buildings. Religion teaches that unless you go to church, you are not a good Christian. Your character is determined by whether or not you attend a church or other religious building? What rubbish! God says no such thing! I would suggest you read my book, Religion’s Cell: Doctrines of the Church that Lead to Bondage and Abuse, on this issue. It is man’s teaching that you must attend an actual church building to be considered a good Christian, not God’s. Church buildings allow men an avenue to gather people together in one place in order to control them for personal gain. We really don’t need church to have a relationship with God. We don’t need over-seers to have a relationship with God, either. The God I now know has a personal one-on-one relationship with me. We have each other’s full attention and affections without any distractions or interferences from others or religion.  God will show me what he wants me to see. He will teach me what he wants me to learn. God doesn’t need men to teach me anything!  He is fully capable of taking care of his own.  Think about this.   Religion has spent the majority of my life interfering with my relationship with God and preventing me from doing what God wanted me to do! Religion used abusive and deceitful tactics to deceive me into believing I needed to do what IT wanted me to do in order to be ‘right’ with God – all at the cost of my family!

Because society as a whole naturally trusts religion to be honest, helpful, and fulfilling, we allow ourselves to get sucked into some very abusive situations. This is especially true with religion because we walk right into the abuse trusting those who have leadership over us. As a result, countless multitudes are walking themselves right into abuses they never bargained for. Abusive religions instill in us that we are NOT worthy, that our faith is NOT good enough, that we DESERVE hell, that we can NEVER be pleasing to God because we can never live up to the standard set by religion and its leaders. And because our faith is not good enough, we are not good enough. Religion will gladly make up rules in order to help us be good enough while it reaps the gain.

The degradation, the labeling, the shunning, the psychological games all aimed at innocent people in order to force conformity to religion and its rules, is astounding. These psychological games are some of the most destructive instruments religion uses to gain control over the masses. Using FEAR to force conformity is one of the most treasured weapons of choice of religious institutions. If you don’t believe this, then maybe you should take a look at the history of Islam and Christianity. These religions used, and still use, fear tactics (inlcuding murder) to prevent anyone from going against them. It works very well, I would say.

The truth is that other religions use fear the same way! As a result, these fears do some major damage emotionally and spiritually to vulnerable, unsuspecting people. There is an ever increasing number of people who have become fed up with being abused and are walking not only away from religion, but God. They have had enough! They are broken, bruised, slandered, hated, despised, and ill-treated because they have decided to break the yoke of bondage to the religion and its leaders who continue to destroy them and their families. Good news, though! Though they walk away, God STILL loves them and will be compassionate and merciful to them. He will continue to BLESS them!  He will wait patiently for their return as he continues to guide their lives.  Religion wants us to believe otherwise! Shame on religion!

Marriages are being destroyed and families are being divided due to religious belief all over the world. Women and children are being physically and sexually abused due to the teachings of some of these religions. The atrocities committed by religious zealots are innumerable and the reality regarding these atrocities is at the forefront of news media all over the world right at this very moment. The world sits in shock as ISIS slaughters thousands of innocent people who refuse to convert to their brand of Islam. Sadly, man-made religions can produce some pretty mean, controlling, and merciless people. The tentacle of destruction these mean-spirited, controlling people inject into our life is shocking, destructive, and far reaching. The religious attitudes alone that degrade women and children have birthed a full generation of mysoginistic men, pedophiles, and sexual deviants. It has created cold and heartless women and men. The fruit of this mindset across the world is sex trafficking, pornography, rape, physical violence, murder and victim blaming.

Using religion to control and manipulate people has to be the most effective, yet destructive, invention of man ever created. Using religion to instill in people they are not good enough for God is tragic! Yet, this is happening everywhere. Religion tells you that if you do not do what it says,  you are not good enough or worthy enough for God’s love and, you DESERVE Hell.

Religion and its followers use God and his name to force others to conform to THEIR will, wants, and desires, not God’s. To the abused, God is abusive and God’s people are controlling and abusive. Abusive religions destroy self-esteem and self-confidence. Many of them devalue women and children making them feel worthless and setting them up for abuse (dehumanization). They instill in you that you are not worthy of God’s love, you are only worthy of going to hell. And if you are not worthy of God’s love, how can you be worthy of anyone elses love?  You are not allowed to have friends outside the sect you serve and you certainly cannot fellowship with ‘the world.’ The isolationism abusive religions teach is not only for maintaining control, it is used as a means to punish those who stray outside of their rules and precepts.

Religion is very good at telling people what to do. It has had thousands of years of practice in learning how to manipulate people and scripture. I give religion an A+ in these areas. Religion is the master of deception and deceit. The façade it wears is beautiful and magnificent.  However, that façade is a lie. The sooner we realize this, the better.

Don’t believe religion! Study to show yourself approved unto God. Follow Him, not man. When we get religion out of our lives, our true CHARACTER reveals itself. Religion has become a mask for poor character, evil, hatred, envy, strife, murder, sexual abuse and more. Take it off! Draw close to God and he will draw close to you. Let God help you fix yourself while enjoying a truly intimate and loving relationship with him. He will treat you better than religion and its followers ever will! Your failures and imperfections don’t bother him at all! He doesn’t expect you to be anything but yourself with him. How refreshing! Because of Christ you are “right with God.” Your sins are remembered no more. Stop beating yourself up and stop using Religion’s MEASURING STICK to determine how good or bad your relationship with God is. God is ready and waiting for an awesome relationship with with you if you will get the interference out from between you and him – RELIGION.

More LIES We are TAUGHT to Believe

  • lieswebelieve2“God cannot use me. My life is a mess.”
  • “God cannot use me. I am not good enough.”
  • “God cannot use me. I am not strong enough.”
  • “God cannot use me. I have been sexually assaulted.”
  • “God cannot use me. I have been sex trafficked.”
  • “God cannot use me. I am a victim of incest.”
  • “God cannot use me. I drink alcohol.”
  • “God cannot use me. I don’t go to church.”
  • “God cannot use me. My faith is too small.”
  • “God cannot use me. I suffer from mental illness.”
  • “God cannot use me. I am depressed.”
  • “God cannot use me. I have a chemical imbalance and have to take meds.”
  • “God cannot use me. I am too sinful.”
  • “God cannot use me. I suffer from panic attacks.”
  • “God cannot use me because. . . (You fill in the excuse.)

There are multitudes of people who believe they cannot be used of God because of their failures, shortcomings, sins, abuses, etc.  What’s worse is that many even believe God is angry at them because of these things and his wrath abides on them. May I say that God does not react to us the same way we react to each other?

From early on in one’s Christian development, church leaders instill in us that we need to live holy and separate from the world. They also place an unreasonable expectation on one’s own personal faith and standards.  We are expected to have a very strong trust and faith in God no matter what happens to us or our families.  If we waiver the slightest bit in that faith, then we are told we are sinning against God and he is angry with us. This is a LIE. May I remind everyone that Jesus did not tell Peter he was sinning when his faith waned and he began to sink into the water. He reached out to him instead and showed Peter love and compassion by pulling him back up. God will reach out to us too, in our time of need – when our faith is small. He won’t condemn or punish us. Wavering or small faith is not a sin! It opens the door for God to show how great and wonderful he is. Weaknesses are not sin, they are avenues for God to show himself mighty in our lives.

The religious tell us those who suffer from emotional and mental disorders lack faith in God;  they are told they are sinning against God. This is a LIE. It is one of the most damaging lies that can be told to someone suffering in this way. We must remember that God made the blind man blind so that his power could be manifested. Religion told him he was born blind because of sin. It was not the blind man’s faith that healed him. It had nothing to do with his faith or lack thereof. He was not blind because of sin. The blind man was born blind to manifest God’s power.  We must understand that God doesn’t rain judgment and wrath down upon the weak, weary, down-trodden, and broken. He extends love, compassion and grace. Don’t listen to religious leaders who tell you otherwise. If you suffer from emotional and mental disorders, it is an avenue for God to show himself in your life. It is not sin and God is not angry with you.

Because we fall short of religion’s standards, we are ridiculed, chastised, and looked down upon by those who believe their faith is stronger than ours. These holier-than-thou, self righteous people do everything in their power to instill guilt in us for not adhering to their set of rules and standards. Sadly, we are judged by our weaknesses instead of succored and extended love and grace to help us grow in spite of our weaknesses. Genuine Christian love is more interested in helping us GROW and MATURE than interested in forcing us to conform to religious rules and conditions. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is Long-suffering and gentle. Love is interested in benefiting others, not self. Love does not label, attack, slander, call names, or abuse, to force conformity. Genuine love, when extended to us, wants to encourage us, lift us up, gently teach us, and coax us along in order for that growth and maturity to happen.  Love will not give us an ultimatum – do as I say or God will punish you and we will too!

If we do not follow religion’s rules, dogmas and precepts during that growth:

  • We are shunned.
  • We are labeled (backsliders, rebellious, bad influences, worldly, haters, unsaved, and on and on. The labels placed on those who do not conform to religion’s rules are too numerous to list.)
  • We are told we are going to hell.
  • We are gossiped about.
  • We are harassed.
  • We are slandered.
  • We are guilted.
  • We are called names.
  • We are physically harmed (women and children)
  • We are the recipient of destructive mind games.
  • This list can go on and on.

Religion says to us that in order for God to truly use us in doing great things we must:

  • “Separate ourselves from the world.”
  • “We must not drink, smoke, or dance.”
  • “We cannot cuss.”
  • “We cannot wear certain clothing styles.”
  • “We must memorize scripture.”
  • “We must be chaste, monogamous, or celibate.”
  • “We cannot be divorced.”
  • “We must attend every church function.”
  • “We must serve in a ministry of the church.”
  • “We must give our life to God in service to the church.”
  • “We must give our money to God through the church.”
  • “We must go out and ‘win’ souls to Christ as a member of a church.”
  • “If we can’t win them, cut them off, or destroy them,”

The reality is this:  It is through our weaknesses God can show his power; through our imperfections God can be glorified. Through our sin, God can show us He is God. God uses flawed people to bring his purposes to fruition.  Don’t believe the lies you are told. We all can be used of God – saved and unsaved. For whatever reason, the religious do not believe this. They are looking at outward appearances (works), but God is looking at your heart and motives. Your character, motives, and how you treat others are more important to God than works of righteousness done for him.

When we admit to being weak, flawed and insufficient, it enables us to fully understand that it is not about US, it is all about God working through us to do great things. No matter our situation, no matter our religious affiliation, no matter our abuses suffered, it is all about God and what he can do through us.  It is not about the church. It is not about Christianity. It is not about denomination. When we treat others with the same compassion, acceptance, grace and love God has extended to us, we are being used whether we realize it or not; whether we have faith or not.

God accepts us where we are and works from there to help us grow toward Him. He is very long-suffering and patient toward us during the process. God extends to us his loving hand to guide us no matter how long the process takes. You see, God knows we will mess up. God knows we will make mistakes that will get us off track. But he is ever faithful to gently lead us along until we get back on track, mature, and become like Him – loving, kind, caring, patient, long-suffering, humble and gentle. This is true maturity.

Religious leaders expect us to change immediately and PROVE ourselves to THEM in order to receive their hand of blessing — God doesn’t. We do not have to prove anything to the religious crowd. There are countless multitudes who love their religion and church leaders above God. They want the church’s hand of blessing instead of God’s. As a result, they will follow the church’s rules and commands even if it means shunning, slandering, and spreading hate.

God loves us unconditionally. Let’s all remember that. There is not one single sin we can commit that will separate us from the love of God or his mercy. Every sin ever committed has been paid for. Our sins are remembered no more and God views us through the shed blood of Christ. Our goal in this life, according to God, is to walk humbly, to do justly, and extend to others the same things God has extended to us. In doing so, everyone can be used no matter their situation. We don’t need religiosity for God to use us. All we need is some good old fashioned character – loving-kindness, honesty, ethics, gentleness, humbleness and patience. When we extend these things unconditionally to others, we are mirroring God and God is pleased. By the way, you don’t have to be a ‘Christian’ to mirror God in this way. Anyone can do these things.

LIES I was TAUGHT to Believe

 

lieswebelieveThroughout my many years of religious indoctrination, I was taught to believe LIES that nearly destroyed me from the inside out. Unfortunately, I am not the only person to have believed these lies. Countless multitudes of believers across all denominations are taught to believe the very same lies. Believing these lies affected me in a huge way. Not only did it affect me, it also affected my family and it affected the way I interacted with others.

One of the areas I have had to really focus on in deprogramming from an abusive religious cult is my “instilled beliefs.”  It has taken a lot of reading, research, and self-examination in order to identify what is truth and what is lie.  Instilled beliefs are not God’s beliefs. They are not even your own beliefs! Instilled beliefs are beliefs we are TAUGHT.  These type of beliefs are dangerous. They are destructive. They only lead to a lack of compassion and genuine love and concern for others and SELF.

Religion is fraught with opinion. These opinions manage to make their way into interpretation. Interpretation is taught as truth and the affects of believing these interpretations are far reaching and destructive.  The many lies we believe as Christians will absolutely determine how we respond to others, how we treat ourselves, how much compassion we have, and how controlled we are with our emotions. Although I was taught to believe MANY lies as a Christian, these two LIES almost destroyed me. . .

LIE #1: Feeling or exhibiting negative emotions is a sin.

It shows a lack of trust and faith in God.

In the sect I came out of we were taught that negative experiences are a result of God’s punishment for sin (A LIE).  When these negative experiences came my way, I was taught to handle them with contentment, peace, and happiness. If I was treated with disrespect or hatefully, I was taught to not respond to it, accept it, and move on.  In doing so, it was supposed to show others that I had a complete and total trust and faith in God that he was in control and would take care of the situation.  At the same time, we were also taught that if we responded to those negative influences in a negative manner, we were exhibiting a lack of faith in God and were sinning. Other Christians had no problem attacking my lack of faith if I dared to voice my opinion, my frustrations, or grief; if I dared to show them with my countenance. Others had no problem attaching “labels” to me if I spoke up about being treated unfairly, disrespectfully, or abusively. I had many labels attached to me – rebellious and stubborn being the biggest two. To dare to disagree usually gained these labels and more. Time and time again I found myself shutting down and pushing how I felt aside, stuffing it all in and putting on a façade. I held years of anger, heartache, and frustrations inside to the point that it nearly destroyed me emotionally. It led to bitterness. It almost destroyed my relationships with family.  It led to depression. It almost led to suicide.

The truth is this:  God created each of us as EMOTIONAL beings. He gave us a broad range of emotions to feel. Not all of these emotions are peaceful or happy! However, you cannot stuff down emotions – even good emotions! You cannot contain excitement and you cannot contain hurt, anger, and grief. After all, we all know the negative outcome of holding in anger, grief, and anxiety.  We must also realize that exhibiting negative emotions is NOT sin. Standing up for yourself and what is right is NOT sin.  IT IS THE RIGHT AND HEALTHY THING TO DO.  It does not show a lack of trust or faith in God just as exhibiting good emotions does not show a complete trust or faith in Him.  This is a lie we have been taught to believe!  For instance, if I swerved to miss an on-coming car while driving down the road, my heart would probably beat loudly in my chest. Emotionally, I would feel many negative emotions! Does this mean I have a lack of faith in God? Of course not! When my best friend died of cancer, the sense of grief and loss was overwhelming. I literally found myself in a depression.  But no one knew I was depressed because, after the funeral, I held in my emotions and shoved them aside.  I had to put on a happy façade while the inner turmoil, grief, and sense of loss raged on the inside.  Did feeling these negative emotions mean that I was exhibiting a lack of trust or faith in God? Again, no! However, because I had been conditioned to hold in negative emotions up to this point, it led to negative self talk after she died that contributed to my depression. This negative self talk was the result of another LIE I was taught to believe.

LIE #2: I am not good enough!

Bad things happen to me and others because my faith is not good enough.

This self talk told me, “If you had prayed harder, God would have healed her.” “If you had trusted Him more, God would have healed her.” “Cynthia, if you had just had enough faith and believed fully, God could have healed her!” Angie’s death was all my fault because my faith just wasn’t strong enough!  As a result, because I did not pray enough and believe enough, my self-image took another nose dive for the umpteenth time. Yes, suppressing emotions is destructive in more ways than one. Every failure or bad outcome in my life I blamed myself for because I wasn’t good enough. Bad things happened to others I cared about BECAUSE I wasn’t good enough.

When negative or abusive circumstances come our way, it is healthy to experience a wide array of emotions. To hold them in and never express them can lead to uncontrolled anger, anxiety attacks, fears, mental illnesses, and depression later on.  As Christians, we are taught to suppress all our negative feelings. However, those feelings do not go away! They stay with us until such a time as they are ‘triggered’ and erupt like a volcano all over some unsuspecting person.  Not only this, but our bodies will deal with all those emotions if we don’t! This is why there are countless people suffering with physical, emotional, and mental disorders. They have held in and not dealt with the emotions that resulted from traumatic situations where they were told to “suck it up,” “forgive and forget,” or worse, “If you really gave it all to Him, you would not be depressed.” Holding in the hurt, the anguish, the anger, the resentment, and the anxieties can also lead to poor self-esteem, poor self-confidence, fears and phobias, depression, emotional disorders, behavioral disorders, and more!

Many church leaders across all denominations are teaching that if you are depressed, you are sinning and showing a lack of faith; if you are anxious or having panic attacks, you are sinning and showing a lack of faith. Unhealthy churches that teach you to hold in negative responses and emotions are creating cold and heartless Christians! Those of us who are going through a traumatic life experience need to be rallied around and treated with compassion and patience!  Instead, we are being taught to NOT have compassion, to NOT feel emotion, to NOT care about others. When we stuff down emotions, we become conditioned to be cold and heartless.  Again, this is dangerous.

When we stuff down negative emotions, we will also stuff good emotions down too. As a result, it becomes easier to turn a blind eye to the abuse of others. Another result of stuffing down good emotions is that life will lose its joy. Instead of seeing the goodness in life, we will focus on the negative. Negative emotions WILL control how you view yourself, view others and view the world around you. If your view is negative, then your responses will also be negative. One of my biggest struggles is viewing life through the lense of beauty and goodness. Because of the many years of emotional and spritual abuse in a religious cult, I easily see the evil and sin arround me. This negative focus causes distrust and fears. De-programming from this kind of view of life has been a very long and difficult process because I have been “conditioned” to respond a certain way.

Painful emotions are not a sign of weak faith. Even Christ expressed strong, painful emotions — he wept when Lazerus died, when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he told his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He exhibited anger when he overthrew the tables in the Temple. Christ did not lack faith, but he did exhibit negative emotions.

Now let me balance all this out by saying this. We CAN have emotions that may very well be immature and/or show a lack of faith!  We can very well have sinful emotions such as jealousy, envy, spite, self-centeredness, rage, etc. Sinful emotions and actions are somewhat easy to detect and differentiate.  I am not talking about these.

It is very difficult to differentiate between faith and lack of faith because we cannot put ourselves in other people’s shoes to know their life experiences. Only God knows the thoughts and intents of the heart of man. Only God truly knows if there is a lack of faith.  Also realize that even if a person does lack faith, God will not accuse, condemn, label, or judge that person! Instead, he will excercise compassion, gentleness and love toward them. Anyone who judges someone’s emotions or actions as lack of faith is putting themselves in the place of God. In exercising judgment in this manner, by default, they are exercising a lack of compassion and genuine love toward another in need of help and healing. This type of judgment only heaps more hurt and anguish on the one suffering.

If we cannot differentiate between faith and lack thereof, then what should our response be to someone who is suffering depression or emotional distress or grief? Compassion, gentleness, kindness, patience, and love. These all help in healing because these traits allow for the one suffering to expend the emotions, hopefully deal with them, and move forward in recovering from the trauma. These traits also strengthen faith in the one suffering! Not dealing with the emotional distress of the death of my closest friend, crippled me in so many ways mentally and emotionally and exacerbated other areas of my life where my response should have been more compassionate and kind toward others. I was taught to ignore my emotions, stuff them all inside, and forget. Because I was taught how to ignore my emotions, I became cold, uncaring and lacked compassion. Then, there were those times when something small would “trigger” all the pent up anger and emotion and I would unleash a tirade and venom at a loved one saying things I didn’t mean.  Undoing the programming has been quite a process. While I have made large strides, there are times when I feel as though the path to full recovery is still very far away. The negative self talk and fears just do not disappear with the revelation of truth! Instilled beliefs do not disappear at the revelation of truth! It takes a conscious effort to undo what has been instilled.

Feeling or expressing negative emotions is not a sin. They are not the result of a lack of faith or trust in God. Expression is a release. Just as a pressure cooker releases the pressure when the lid is removed, our emotions release the pressure when we are allowed to express them appropriately and receive consolation, genuine concern, and love in getting through them. Expression leads to compassionate behaviors, kindness and genuine love and concern toward others. It helps us to live weightless so we can sleep at night. Holding it all in makes for angry, uncompassionate, bitter people who live their lives in fear, discontent and gloom. Having or lacking faith is not for others to judge. Telling someone their faith is not good enough is the same as telling them they are not good enough. The truth is that God says we are good enough – where we are, whether we have faith or not.

What does God DELIGHT in?

Believe it or not, there are countless millions that sincerely believe that God delights in their religiosity. What is religiosity? It is any or all of the following:

•  Attending a church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other place of worship
•  Serving in a ministry of any place of worship
•  Converting others
•  Following religious rules put in place by religious leaders or those of the Old Testament
•  Punishing sinners
•  Reading and studying religious texts
•  Supporting church leaders
•  Unquestionable loyalty to a religious institution
•  Unquestionable loyalty to religious leaders
•  Super modest attire (women and young girls only)
•  Giving to the church or its ministry needs
•  Growing a church to large numbers
•  Bringing people to church to ‘hear the truth’ or to get ‘saved’
•  Blind loyalty to religiously taught dogmas and precepts
•  Memorizing religious texts

Actually, this list of religious behaviors (religiosity) could really go on and on! It is endless what people believe will please God and make them ‘right with God.’ So, for the sake of the millions who are living under this premise that they are pleasing God, I would like to shed some light on what God says pleases him. I have already covered what pleases God many times in articles on this blog. However, sometimes it is necessary to not ‘beat around the bush’ and just come right out and say it plainly…..RELIGIOSITY AND RELIGION DO NOT PLEASE GOD!

• Attending a religious institution does NOT please God!
• Serving in a ministry of a religious institution does NOT please God!
• Following religious rules does NOT please God!
• Memorizing religious texts does NOT please God!
• Punishing sinners does NOT please God!
• Dressing ‘modestly’ does NOT please God!
• Reading and studying religious texts does NOT please God!
• Financially supporting religious institutions and their leaders does NOT please God!
• Unquestionable loyalty to a religious institution, its leaders, its dogmas and precepts, does NOT please God!
• Building a church does NOT please God!
• Bringing people to church (a religious institution) to ‘hear the truth’ or to get ‘saved’ does NOT please God!

Well, some of you might be thinking at this point that what I have just stated sounds ridiculous. Well, maybe if I deliver my thoughts differently you won’t think I’m completely off my rocker. So, let’s take a look at what GOD says pleases him as compared to what man tells us pleases Him. Religions of the world tell us that all the above things please God and keep us in ‘good standing’ with Him. Not so.

According to the Prophets – What pleases God?

MICAH
Micah taught that God’s primary demand of human beings is to act ethically: “And what does the Lord require of you? To do JUSTICE, love MERCY, and walk HUMBLY with God” (6:8). Micah doesn’t speak of faith, sacrifices, or religious behaviors or rituals. Instead he says God’s most significant demands are justice, mercy (compassion), and humility. All of these traits are rooted in ETHICS.

JEREMIAH
“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; let not the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches. But one should only glory in this: That he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, Who exercises mercy, justice and righteousness on the earth. For in these I delight, says the Lord.(9:23-24)”

Jeremiah singles out the top three things that people tend to pride themselves on which cause them to feel superior to others and feel smug in their religiosity. But what delights God the most is mercy, justice and righteousness. Anyone who does not understand this does not “understand and know” God.

Don’t expect God to be impressed with how smart you are, how strong you are or how much money you have. Compared with God and his wisdom, strength and wealth, these mean nothing to him. However, using these things to bless others can impress God when used to achieve ethical ends. In other words, teach and inspire others to be good, use your power and strength to protect the oppressed, give your money to help those in need. People that do these things are pleasing to God.

ISAIAH
According to Jewish teaching, Isaiah condensed the Old Testament’s 613 commandments into six principles of behavior:

• Practicing righteousness
• Speaking truthfully and fairly
• Spurning dishonest gain
• Refusing bribes
• Closing one’s ears to blood (not associating with anyone plotting violence against another)
• Closing one’s eyes from seeing evil (blindness to abuses and abusers)

Jewish Wisdom teaches us that, according to Isaiah, a person who does these things “will dwell on high” (33:15-16); i.e. be rewarded by God. Isaiah, according to Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, “denounced the tendency to believe that God’s favor can be won by those who do evil, and then offer prayers or perform ritual acts: “And when you lift up your hands [in prayer], I will turn My eyes from you. Though you pray at length, I will not listen. Your hands are stained in blood” (1:15).

God’s main wish for us as his children is to be righteous and ethical. It is not his wish for us to act religiously! Your religiosity has absolutely nothing to do with ethics. Religiosity does not make one ethical, righteous, humble, or pleasing to God.

“Is such the fast I desire, a day for men to starve their bodies? Is it bowing the head. . .and lying in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast, a day when the Lord is favorable? No, this is the fast I desire: . . . to let the oppressed go free and to break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, and to take the wretched into your home; when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to ignore your own kin” (58:5-7). Isaiah is telling us that we should not fast to try and please God, we should fast so that we know what it is like to be hungry! In knowing what it is like to put ourselves in shoes of the less fortunate, we will have more compassion on our fellow man who is in need. We will treat such a person with kindness, compassion, love and mercy – all ethical behaviors. Most people I know fast in order to get something from God. How many fast in order to learn to exercise humility, compassion, mercy, or justice in dealing with others?

AMOS AND HOSEA
Both of these men emphasized the importance of ethical behavior over religiosity. According to Amos, any prayer offered by unethical people actually offends God: “Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice well up as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (5:22-24).

Hosea teaches that ethical behavior appeases God. “For I desire kindness and not sacrifice, attachment to God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).

ZECHARIAH
Zechariah also proclaims that God’s main concern is for people to behave ethically: “then the word of God came to Zechariah: This is what the God of Hosts said: ‘Render true justice, be kind and merciful to one another. Do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the convert or the poor; and do not plot evil in your hearts against one another’” (Zechariah 7:8-10). It was Israel’s refusal to obey these injunctions that brought God’s wrath upon them. What makes us think we can escape his wrath for ignoring them?

MALACHI
Malachi teaches that fair and compassionate treatment of others is the fruit of belief in God: “have we not all one father? Did not one God create us? Why do we break faith with one another (not treating them ethically), profaning the covenant of our ancestors?” (2:10). What this means is that it is important for us to not only do God’s will by treating others ethically (doing what is just and right and not breaking faith with others) but, we need to teach it to our children. “Gen 18:19: For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (This is the covenant of our ancestors: to do justice and judgment and teach it to our children.).

In looking back at biblical text it is important for us to realize the reasons God punished Israel and take heed. God condemned Israel for doing the following:

• Oppressing the poor (Amos 2:7)
• Perverting justice (Amos 5:7)
• Using unjust weights (Micah 6:10-11)
• Accepting bribes (Micah 3:11)
• Lying (Jeremiah 9:4)
• Murdering and stealing (Jeremiah 7:9)
• Adultery (Jeremiah 5:8)
• Swearing falsely (Jeremiah 5:2)
• Not paying workers their wages (Jeremiah 22:13)
• Disregarding others’ property rights (Micah 2:2)

Because of all these UNETHICAL behaviors, Israel was continually being punished by God. It doesn’t matter what you BELIEVE. It doesn’t matter your RELIGION. It doesn’t matter if you go to CHURCH or give exorbitant amounts of money to charitable institutions. None of these things PLEASE God. The ETHICAL treatment of others pleases God. Rooted in humility, ethical treatment of others is what God is wanting from his children. Religiosity has nothing to do with ethics. I know many who have forgone ethics to do what their religion tells them to do. They have prostituted themselves with the “church” to gain the favor of the church and its leaders instead of doing God’s will and walking humbly, exercising justice, and extending mercy and compassion to others.

Ethical behavior means more to God than your religion, your beliefs, your money, your sacrifice! Ethics come from WITHIN. They are a part of one’s character. They are rooted in genuine LOVE and RESPECT for one’s fellow man. Religiosity and religion are rooted in man’s opinions, interpretations, and man-made rules given by the religious institutions one serves. Religion and religiosity can actually undermine the work of the Spirit of God in our lives by overriding our conscience to follow religious rules and/or precepts in order to ‘be right with God.’ Both can become a part of our character. Both are learned behaviors and attitudes. One leads to righteousness, compassion, humility and mercy, the other leads to hate, oppression, murder, inequality, self-righteousness, judgmentalism, etc. One causes us to lift up and edify our neighbor, the other causes us to disregard, oppress and harm our neighbor.

With this in mind, let’s do what pleases God. In doing so, we will make the world a better place and bring God’s blessing upon us and our nation.

Ethical not Religious!

God’s central demand of human beings is to act ethically. — Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

ethicsEthics is slowly disappearing in the world. Instead of people having their own code of moral values with which to guide their lives, they have been deceived into accepting a corrupted set of values. There are countless millions that have given up personal ethics for “religion.”  In doing so, they have replaced ethics with a new term – “religious.” As a result, religion has effectively found a way to bypass an individual’s responsibility to treat others ethically. Ethical treatment doesn’t just include honesty it includes treating others with fairness, autonomy, respect, honor and dignity without regard to preference or belief. These are moral principles that all are entitled to receive. I would be very afraid of any culture that practices religion instead of ethics.

Sadly, just because you are religious does not mean you are ethical. Being religious does not mean you are spiritual. Being religious does not even ensure that you are going to be a moral person! “Religiosity” is adherence to a set of religious observances. It can be used as a façade or mask. Many wear this facade to hide abuses, sin, and unethical behaviors and attitudes. They want to appear upstanding, honest and ethical for peer approval. As a society we have merged the term religious with other terms that it has nothing to do with! Now, Religious = ethical, honest, respectful, trustworthy, thoughtful, caring, considerate, God-loving, etc.

Religious has nothing to do with all of these things! It has to do with ritual observances, not ethics. Most people will determine whether or not they will treat a person with respect, honor and dignity based on their religious observances because these observances are either rooted in, or influenced by, theological beliefs (the religion). What do we do when theological beliefs are twisted, and are rooted in lies and mens opinions? We will find abuses hidden under the façade! We will find all manner of corruption, oppression, rules, evil, and atrocities. We will also find countless victims of the abuses.

Theological beliefs do not make a person ethical (although they have potential to help a person develop their ethics). Theological beliefs do not make a person spiritual. Theological beliefs do not even ensure that a person is a moral person! All theological beliefs do is instill a set of religious rules and precepts (the religion) which will influence a person’s behavior and attitude for either good or bad. “Religiosity,” then, is a set of ritual observances influenced by theological belief. Many base their ethics on their “religion” instead of what is morally and ethically right! Ethics is doing right, no matter what you are told. Religion is doing what you are told, no matter what is right.

Thus, we can find a flawed pattern of thinking for many religious people in determining how some of them treat others. (When I use “not religious” below, I am referring to not keeping the religious rules and precepts [theological beliefs] and/or exhibiting religiosity by attending church or serving in a religious ministry [ritual observances].) It could go something like this:

  • They don’t go to church (not religious), therefore they cannot be trusted. (Religion does not determine one’s honesty and integrity.)
  • They don’t go to church (not religious), therefore they are on their way to hell. (Religion does not determine one’s salvation.)
  • They don’t go to church (not religious), therefore they are “backslidden.” (Religion does not determine one’s relationship with God.)
  • They don’t go to church (not religious), so, I will do business with someone that does. (Religion does not determine one’s honesty and integrity in business.)
  • They don’t go to church (not religious) therefore they are a bad influence and may lead me into sin. (Religion does not determine Character.)
  • They don’t go to church (not religious), they are of the “world.” (Religion does not determine who is “of the world.”)
  • They aren’t a part of my religion, they deserve to go to hell. (See how cruel Religion is?)
  • They won’t do as I say, therefore they deserve to be punished, or worse, to die. (Honor killing/violence – See how cruel Religion is?)
  • They don’t believe as we do, let’s hurt them. (Religion hurts those it cannot control.)
  • They are going through a tragedy, therefore God is punishing them for their sin. (Religion is judging people?)

Can you see the point I am trying to make here? Sometimes, we judge or make assessments about others based on our “religion.” Religion is the rules and precepts created by “the Church” that influence our behavior and attitude toward others. Instead, we should be basing our attitudes and treatment of others on ethics! God wants us to treat others ethically because, as Rabbi Telushkin says,  “God is a God of ETHICS.”

Ethics has to do with moral principles – judging people FAIRLY, expressing GRATITUDE, asking for FORGIVENESS when we have wronged others, expressing anger without inflicting irrevocable HURT, not speaking UNFAIRLY of others, HONESTY, INTEGRITY, treating others with DIGNITY and RESPECT, RESISTING the urge to be envious, to hate, to seek revenge. God wants everyone to be ethical toward others! This can only be done when we truly LOVE our neighbor as ourselves. Ethics determine what you will do when no one is watching. Religiosity, a product of “the religion,” is a façade used to project to others that you are righteous, ethical, and trustworthy, when in fact, you may not be. This facade totally bypasses a person’s responsibility to treat everyone ethically no matter what their preference or belief is. As a result of this new term in society, the Religious have an excuse for treating people unethically – based on theological belief! Religiosity can be used to gain notoriety, secure beneficial relationships for personal gain, hide sin, protect the evil from exposure, hide character flaws.

Religiosity and theological belief do not determine CHARACTER; although theological belief can affect one’s character. Thus, it is important to remind ourselves that just because someone is religious does not make them ethical. Let’s disconnect this term, religious, from our lives and live by ethics and integrity. Let’s treat people ethically no matter their belief, lifestyle or religious affiliation. There is no place of prejudice, dishonesty, judgmentalism, envy, strife, exclusion, or hatred within ethics. These traits only abide under a religious and theological banner where corruption has entered, taken root, and sprouted.

 

The Terrible Toll of Hatred

The Terrible Toll of Hatred

When people commit terrible crimes and an enormous punishment comes upon them, they step back, recognize the evil they have done, and repent. But people guilty of “groundless hatred” never acknowledge that they have committed a sin. Ask them if they think it is wrong to hate their opponents and they will tell you why their adversaries are worthy of being hated. Consequently, although their sin seems to be of a lesser dimension, they never repent of it.

“Love blinds us to faults, hatred to virtues.”—Moshe ibn Ezra (c. 1055-after 1135), Shirat Yisrael

“Hatred makes the straight crooked.”—Hebrew proverb

People who hate don’t “see straight.” Describe to them a good act performed by a person they despise, and they will formulate theories explaining why it really is evil, or motivated by evil intentions.

— – Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Wisdom, pg 197.

These words of Telushkin should cause us to step back and carefully consider how we are viewing those “we have hatred for.” Hatred should be aimed at “evil doers” in order to stop their tyranny and evil which is directly aimed at hurting and/or destroying innocent people. It is not for those we “hate” because of lifestyle, ethnicity, bad choices, or opposing beliefs. Evil doers are only interested in controlling and manipulating people for their own selfish causes; whatever those selfish causes may be (notoriety, money, power, religion, etc.). Evil’s goal is to impose its beliefs and standards onto others by force (bondage) or, through deception.  The opposition to Evil, is “unconditional love.” Unconditional love brings freedom, autonomy, and joy. One is rooted in “darkness” and the other is rooted in “Light.”

Sadly, when we allow evil doers to get away with their evil and they are not heavily punished, they will continue to perpetrate evil and more victims will fall prey to their destruction; or worse, begin perpetrating evil themselves against other innocent victims. It is so important that we stop Evil and those who perpetrate it before more innocent lives are overtaken by it and them. Evil does not want us to be happy and free. It wants us to be controlled. It wants to manipulate us into do its bidding. What is Evil’s bidding? Making people “blind” in order to perpetrate more Evil under a false facade. Evil uses behavior modification, mind control, and information control to bring innocent people over to its side. As a result, “blindness” causes good people to do and say bad things to other good people! It also causes good people to perpetrate evil against other good people.

Hatred is a seed that can sprout Evil in my opinion. Misplaced hatred for any reason other than evil behavior’s and attitudes that harm and destroy innocent people, is wrong. The Evil have made crooked a straight path. In the end, the harm they inflict will have a ripple effect and many will either succumb to the evil themselves or, be destroyed as a result. The Evil will be held accountable by God for each and every person affected by their evil.

This said, when Evil is perpetrated by people who claim to represent God, they commit the ultimate and unpardonable sin:

The Third Commandment also has not fared well in English. Lo tissa et shem Ha-Shem Eloheikha la-shav is usually translated as “You shall not TAKE the Lord your God’s name in vain.” Many people think that this means that you have to write God as G-D, or that it is blasphemous to say words such as “god-damn.” Even if these assumptions are correct, it’s still hard to figure out what makes this offense so heinous that it’s included in the document that forbids murdering, stealing, idolatry, and adultery. However, the Hebrew, Lo tessa, literally means “You shall not CARRY [God’s name in vain]”; in other words don’t use God as your justification in selfish causes. The Third commandment is the only one concerning which God says, “for the Lord God will not forgive him who carries His name in vain” (Exodus 20:6-7). The reason now seems to be clear. When a person commits an evil act, he discredits himself. But when a religious person commits an evil act in the name of God, he or she discredits God as well. And since God relies on religious people to bring knowledge of Him into the world, He pronounces this sin unpardonable.” — Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy

Overcoming FEAR

fearToday, I would like to cover a topic that is of major concern to me when it comes to those who have been abused. Abuse can come in many forms. It can be emotional abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse or sexual abuse and exploitation. Whatever the abuse is that happens to us, it creates fear and this fear can stifle a person’s growth. Many times, these fears are “instilled” fears. They are learned over time through the experiences we have had to walk through in life. These instilled fears can also be the by-product of brainwashing/indoctrination. As a result, it produces in people negative traits that follow them wherever they go. It determines reaction. It determines outcomes. Because this issue is so prevalent and difficult to control, I thought I would take a shot at maybe helping others through their fears by telling about mine and how I deal with them. Let me start by naming some fears that many people deal with (this includes me!) who have gone through abuse of any kind:

  • Fear of other people
  • Fear of being made a fool of
  • Fear of being hurt again
  • Fear of being called names and labeled
  • Fear of being shamed
  • Fear of being wrong or making a mistake
  • Fear of being attacked physically or publicly (public humiliation)
  • Fear of being shunned
  • Fear of being slandered or character assassinated
  • Fear of government
  • Fear of church leaders
  • Fear of being threatened
  • Fear of not being believed
  • This list of fears could go on and on!

First of all, let me say that having fear is normal! It is natural to be fearful. As children, we are afraid of the dark; but then our parents help us through that fear by getting a night light in our room. As we get older and grow through further education, we realize there is nothing to be afraid of in the dark. Also, as children, we have parents that reassure us and nurture us along, helping to guide us through that fear until we are old enough to educate ourselves. But who do we have to help nurture and guide us through our fears as adults? Friends, family and professional counselors.

If you are a Christian reading this, then your answer would be, “You can trust in God! God will not give you more than you can handle. If you really trusted in God, you would not fear.” Sadly, these parroted responses taught to us in church or Sunday school do not eliminate fear. As a matter of fact, all they do is produce more fear, shame, and negative self-talk in someone suffering from fears or PTSD. Fears are REAL in the minds of those suffering from them and, these sufferers are desperately trying to cope and/or find a way to overcome them. None of us WANT to be afraid.

As survivors of religious abuses of varying kinds, we have had our thinking and behavior modified due to indoctrination. Just because we extract ourselves from the abusive organization, doesn’t mean that we leave as a “whole” human being. When I say ‘whole’ I am implying the leaving behind of the mindsets and behavioral patterns we have developed as a result of the indoctrination. When a person leaves an abusive organization or relationship, the mindsets, the fears, and the behavioral patterns all leave with that person. They do not magically disappear! These negative traits are a part of who we are as individuals. At the most inopportune time, they rear their heads in our lives and create untold hardship for us.

How does fear create hardship for us? Let’s look at some ways that it does for me and maybe some of you will relate.

IT PREVENTS FORWARD MOBILITY

Fear stops me in my tracks and prevents or hinders me from moving forward in making decisions that could be beneficial for me. It often prevents me from branching out and experiencing new things; from stepping out into the unknown to SEE what is available to me. Some of these new things could bring much happiness to my life; yet, fear prevents me.

My fears cause me to internalize negative teachings from my indoctrination in the cult into negative PERSONAL characteristics and attach them to my being. In the cult I was taught I was worthless because I was a woman. I was taught that women should not be listened to or believed. As a result of believing I was worthless, that I couldn’t do anything right, it produced other negative feelings.

Anytime I try to do anything good for myself or others, negative self-talk rears its head. My mind seemingly goes into auto-pilot mode and begins to tell me such things as the following:

  • You should have answered that question differently. People are going to misunderstand you because you said it the wrong way. See how stupid you are?
  • You should have answered that question differently. Because of the way you said it, you may have just hurt this or that person’s feelings. Now look what you’ve done!
  • You should have answered that question differently. Now people are going to take what you’ve said and use it humiliate you. They are going to twist your words! See, I told you, you are stupid!
  • You should have answered that question differently. Because I didn’t answer it differently, now people think I am a fool. Because I didn’t answer it differently, now I have lost credibility. No one will ever believe me again! See, “THEY” were right. No one should ever believe anything I say!

Here’s the reality. There is a possibility that some or all of these fears could be true. But so what? If someone misunderstands me, I apologize and make it right. If I hurt someone’s feelings, I apologize and make it right. If someone takes what I say and twists it in order to hurt me, SHAME on that person – not me! THAT person is perpetrating evil. I will continue to speak MY truth when asked. I am not perfect. I make many mistakes. I will continue to make mistakes in life as I learn and grow. Where would I be as a person if I did not have mistakes in my past to TEACH me and make me a better person? If I lose credibility, I learn from the mistake and work on getting better. No one is PERFECT. All have sinned. All fall short. Just because we fail or hurt someone does not mean we are worthless, stupid or a bad person – it means we are human! Pick yourself back up and walk!

Surround yourself with “encouragers” to help you pick yourself back up.  Encouragers are some of the greatest people you will ever meet. God has put them in our lives to help us through the difficult times. I LOVE encouragers! They are the most valuable to those of us who are hurting. Find an encourager and see the difference it can make.

IT CREATES NEGATIVE SELF-WORTH

Because we genuinely believe we are not good enough, we sabotage our efforts. We blame ourselves anytime anything bad happens! We constantly look within ourselves and reinforce the same negative traits through the same negative self-talk. It becomes a vicious cycle. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it can also lead us to PLACE blame on others in order to shift the spotlight off ourselves. Negative self-worth speaks to us as follows:

  • How could anyone love me? Look at what an awful person I am?
  • How could anyone love me? Look how I just messed up?
  • How could anyone love me? I am used goods!
  • How could anyone love me? Look at the mistakes I have made in my life!
  • How could anyone love me? I am so ugly.
  • How could anyone love me? I can’t do anything right!

This list can go on and on as well. Negative self worth prevents us from seeing how wonderful we are as human beings. It prevents us from being ourselves and enjoying life to its fullest. It will stifle mutually beneficial relationships and hinder or destroy friendships. It will also cause us to second guess everything we say!

Negative self worth can even manifest itself in ways that are repulsive to others! Have you ever come across a person that is boastful? All they do is talk about themselves and all the great things they have done? More than likely, that person suffers from a negative self-worth and acts this way in order to compensate. It never dawns on the individual that he not only comes across as boastful and proud, but he also reeks of self-absorption. Their negative self worth has hindered them from growing; instead, it produced negative fruit that will further harm them. They want to show the world they really are a fantastic person who can do great things. But what it shows others is they are not secure in themselves and who they are as a person.

When this negative self-talk rears its head, tell yourself you don’t believe it! I refuse to believe that I am worthless! I refuse to believe that I can’t do SOMETHING right! I refuse to believe that I cannot correct a mistake if I make one! I will get better! I will be better for ME and others! I will take responsibility for my mistakes and keep moving forward.

IT PRODUCES SILENCE

This has to be the number one trait of fear. It causes us to remain silent. In the face of injustice, our lips are tightly sealed. This is so sad. Because of fear, we enable abuse to further proliferate; allow abusive people to further harm others.

Here’s how my fears silenced me when I was in the cult. None of these are criminal, but they lead to a ‘blindness’ toward emotional abuse, information control and behavior modification.

  • There were opinions and lies in the many sermons that were preached. They had underlying meanings aimed at making women look bad. I said nothing to others, only my family, out of fear of being attacked or slandered for “questioning” the leadership. (See my adapted response due to fear? This allowed for these targeted sermons to continue to brainwash the men regarding women!)
  • This leader is too controlling. He wants everyone to go to him before making decisions for their family? I remained silent out of fear of confrontation or attack. I decide never to go to the pastor for advice on personal decisions. The pastor knows this and gossips to others about me in order to prevent them from listening to anything I have to say or, associating with me. Now I have only a couple of families as friends. I still remain silent and do not confront the situation. (This pastor will continue to do the same to others because of my silence.)
  • This leader is attacking me and my family publicly. I say nothing to anyone in the church. I quietly leave hoping the next church won’t use the pulpit as a whipping post to humiliate and attack people. (This allows for the abuser to keep abusing others the same way!)
  • That preacher was accused of child molestation? I won’t talk about it. It can’t possibly be true. No one else better talk about it either and hurt the cause of Christ! The preacher said, “No gossiping allowed!” (Aiding a coverup.)
  • Something is not right here. I am not getting myself involved! I don’t want to get hurt. (Another family is destroyed, has no support, and suffers because of my silence.)

Now, let’s look at some fears that I know others deal with that prevent them from stepping forward and reporting criminal abuses:

  • I was told not to report it because it was ‘my fault.’
  • I was told to let the church handle it. After all, I don’t want to hurt the cause of Christ!
  • I will be called a liar.
  • I am afraid of anyone else knowing what has happened to me.
  • I will have to carry shame for the rest of my life.
  • People will think less of me because of the abuse. They will despise me.
  • I will be ‘marked.’
  • I will be publicly humiliated.
  • Everyone will make fun of me.
  • I will be harassed.
  • They may try to hurt me.
  • And on and on we go. . .

The reality is that silence prevents justice, prevents autonomy, reinforces an abusers stronghold, destroys others, and self. Justice is really WORTH the price paid. But most don’t believe that! Speaking up could prevent further abuse. Speaking up shows others that they can speak up too! Speaking up emboldens others and, your courage in doing so may be what makes the difference in bringing about change.

Is there danger in speaking up? In standing up for yourself and your family against abuse? Yes. Don’t let the dangers stop you. It may be the bravest and most selfless thing you have ever done in your life! Standing up for what is right, because it is right, is the greatest character trait of all. Just think of how proud God will be of you! Will we have fears? Yes. Don’t let fear paralyze you. Our silence could mean destruction for someone else. Danger is a part of life. It comes and it goes. Personally, I would rather die for doing what I believe is right than hiding and cowering in fear of others and what they think. I cowered most of my life and I will cower no more. If I am going to make mistakes, I wont run from them! I will face them and allow people to SEE my humanity, my vulnerability, my genuineness. I know that through humility – owning up to my mistakes and working hard to make things right – people will forgive. I pick myself back up and march on.

None of us are perfect! We all will have good and bad days. But when we let fear LEAD us and GUIDE us, we have failed miserably. God is not pleased. ACTION overcomes FEAR. I will continue to do what I am afraid to do. I will continue to speak when I am afraid to speak. I will speak with discretion though, in order to minimize repercussions. I will use gracious words to minimize attack. I will use loving words, because I care about others. I will lift up and edify those that disagree with me, because they are human too. How I respond to the negative could determine whether or not someone who is watching is changed because of me. The same is true for each of you. Will I mess up now and again with my words? Yes. We all will!  We just apologize and move on.

Courage is contagious. Others draw strength from those that show courage and try to be courageous themselves. Fear proliferates SILENCE. Silence is also contagious. As a result, we need more people to choose to be courageous for the sake of others. If no one speaks out to stop the abuses, corruption has fertile ground to grow and more and more people will get hurt and destroyed.

Is silence worth the life of one single soul? No. Will FEAR continue to control my life and keep me silent? No. Eventually, I will gain the victory over my fears with each step I take to conquer them. Is there joy outside of the fear? Yes. Is there danger? Could be. You will only know what lies ahead when you take action to do what you are afraid to do. What I have learned is that, in MOST cases, my fears were always bigger than reality. I bet they will be for you too.