Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5
Step 6
Step 7
Step 8
Step 9
Step 10
Step 11
Step 12
Give Yourself Time
Follow Jesus' Steps

Step 1:
Admit You've Been Hurt By Religion

JESUS CAME TO SET PEOPLE FREE FROM SICK AND ABUSIVE RELIGION. (Read Matthew 23:1-15, 24-28, 33 to see how Jesus viewed religious abuse.)

A buse is use of power by the strong to control and oppress the weak.

For many people, this step is the hardest one.  Religious abuse begins early in life and often is caused by parents, pastors, and teachers.  We accept abuse as OK or deserved. Abuse is not OK and is not deserved.  Many people see rejecting their childhood religion as being like rejecting their own grandmother.  Our deep emotional ties with our childhood make it very difficult for us to be objective about the way in which religion was used to control and sometimes abuse us.

What IS sick and abusive religion?  Sick and abusive religion is the judgmental legalism that Jesus came to destroy and replace with himself.  People can become addicted to abusive religion.  Recent studies have shown how addictive religion can develop.  See the Resources section for books on religious abuse and addiction.

Have you ever been abused by religion?  What is your earliest memory of religious ideas or religious experience?  How would you describe the religion of your parents when you were a child?  Can you recall any particular time when religion was used to punish or control you?  How has religion affected your self esteem?  Answering some of these questions may be disturbing to you but may also help you to gain insight into why it is so difficult for you to face the damage that abusive religion has done to you. 

Discussing and sharing these questions with others like yourself in a small group can be an enlightening and learning time of growth for you.  You will discover how others have gone through many of the same problems and hurts regarding religion just as you have.

Jesus said in John 10:10: "All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not hear them.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that you might have life and have life abundantly." "Thieves and robbers" are words that Jesus used for abusive religious leaders.

Further discussion of Step 1 can be found in my book Steps To Recovery From Bible Abuse in the following Lessons:

(Click on Bible references to read them.)

Mark 3:1-6

Matthew 21:45-46; 22:15-22; 23:6-12, 27-33

Matthew 23:1-39

The Book of Philippians 3:1-14

Click Here for a recent update related to Childhood Abusive Religion

On to Step 2

Update for October 6, 2002

Thanks to all of you who have written recent e-mail to comment on my updates and to encourage me. I appreciate your ideas, and I hope that you will think about this update and write to me about your reaction.

Today, during my work, I ran across the web site of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.  The site was focused on responding to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.  The title was: "Together, we can turn remembrance into renewal."  The article included a list of the employees of the Port of Authority of NY and NJ who died in the disaster.  I was amazed at how many had died there.

The comment that really jumped out to me was this: "We believe that to rebuild, we must remember, and to renew, we must dream."  Then they added: "It is in this spirit of optimism that we resolve never to lose sight of the strength, dedication, and bravery of our Port Authority colleagues and friends, and all those who lost their lives that day.  We stand united with them all, and their families, today and forever."  Then I clicked on the list of "Our Fallen Colleagues."  (See Port Authority web site..)

My thoughts went immediately to my experience in St. Louis last June during the Soul Force training for confronting the Southern Baptist Convention.  In the large downtown church that we met, the walls were covered with huge photos of dozens of GLBT people who had been killed or had committed suicide because of the religious terrorism of Southern Baptists and other abusive legalistic distortions and idolatries.


We cannot afford to forget or ignore the spiritual terrorism of contemporary religions.  We must remember that the devastating terrorism of homophobia came from abusive judgmental legalistic misrepresentations of God and spiritual truth in thousands of churches, preachers, and religious groups.  We cannot turn back and force ourselves to become comfortable with lies and distortions about who we are and who God is.

We do not need and should not seek or want the approval of abusive ignorant religion for our lives and our relationships as LBGT children of God!!

Some churches are accepting and affirming GLBT people, but that does not magically turn them into truly Christian organizations!  They continue to claim to speak for God and continue to use religion to exercise inappropriate control over people in the name of their God.  Only God speaks for God.

I do not claim to speak for God.  I can speak only for myself and share with you what I have experienced and learned from many sources and many people.  I believe God is in my life and in all things and all people around me.  But I don't claim to speak for God.  That would be idolatry, which is the main problem with abusive legalistic religion in the first place.

See "Legalism as Idolatry" in my web site.  Any religion that claims to "speak for God" is automatically idolatrous and abusive.  We have to be awake to the vast difference between being dependent on God and being dependent on the church.


We cannot go back to church as though nothing has happened.  Can we ever really feel at home again in liturgy, clergy, architecture, art, doctrine, rules, laws, demands and explanations that underlie the terrorism of homophobia?  We are beckoned by reality to go far beyond "reformation" to a new creation that truly reflects the loving inclusive Spirit of Jesus and rejects all of the demeaning judgmental legalism of the overwhelming majority of present churches and religious institutions.

We have no reasonable choice but to start over.  Small groups of 3 to 7 people with no liturgy, no treasury, no money, no property, no structure, no clergy, no authority, and the absolute demand of Jesus ringing in our hearts to become like children.  Then we can wait and see what God does when God's hands are not tied by the church!


Abandon everything that is destructive, deceptive and demeaning.  Clear the ground for rebuilding spiritual life that really fits you and that is realistic, objective, logical and practical.  I have come to the conclusion that ALL contemporary churches are deceptive misrepresentations of the truth about God, love, truth and reality.  The Bible is being used like a blunt instrument to beat people into religious submission and into spiritual unconsciousness.

Does it bother you that the Bible is being used by churches and parents literally to "beat the brains out of" children so that they are conditioned to doubt and reject their own feelings and ideas and to abandon logic and objective thinking about themselves, to question their personal value to God, and to themselves, and to forget their vision of their place in the universe?

The terrorism and madness go on unchecked and some call it a "great revival"!

Terrorism always backfires.  It is never logical. Terrorism incites terrorism in response.  The United States has gone into the strongholds of terrorism and destroyed the political and military government behind the terrorists and has entered into an extended war on terrorism.

We have been far too timid about religious terrorism.  We want to negotiate a reasonable acceptance from abusive ignorant churches.  It has not worked, because it cannot work.

Why should I join or support any group that lives in the mentality of the middle ages and falsely claims to speak for God.  I can support religion today only if I surrender to the opinion of religion that I am a fool and an abomination to God.  I cannot and will not slide down that slimy path!  Will you?


Abusive ignorant religion has used visions of hell to terrorize young children and implant fears that never leave them for the rest of their lives.  Mythological visions of heaven have been used to justify the misinformation and abusive use of traditional religion to control people.  You are not stuck, however, with medieval visions alone.  You are free to dream and hope and let God give you a new vision of freedom and realism that fits you today.

Renewal is impossible unless we let go of the past and move on by faith into a promised land that we have not yet seen or even imagined.  The foundations are being shaken and cultural structures are tumbling down all around us.  To try to accommodate the trembling crumbling remains of abusive homophobic religion is futile and counter-productive.

The most famous speech of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is "I Have a Dream!"  Get a copy of it and read it again.  Change and renewal come as a result of dreaming a dream that is not yet a reality but is already alive and at work in many hearts and heads in your world.


Where are going with your life?  Where are you headed in your relationships and in your personal plans for your future?  Where is God for you?  Nobody else can show you the path you should take.  You are the path.  Where will your dream take you today?

Rembert Truluck

Remember: letting go of abusive religion and churches is not letting go of God or Jesus or letting go of an objective realistic use of the Bible.  It is not an abandonment of your personal spiritual journey or your dream for your own future.  Letting go of an abusive religious past can be your first step to "Remembering, Rebuilding, Dreaming and Renewal".  To me, to follow Jesus means to let go and move on.

Update for January 22, 2001:

What kind of power does abusive religion have over your mind and life?

Religious forces for political change are suddenly escalating into a blizzard of new policies and governmental proposals for our nation.  Many of the radical changes being proposed by the new administration are based on religion and are capable of bringing drastic changes to the social climate for women and all minorities.  Watch today's news for yourself.  A fresh look at the dynamics of abusive religion is in order today.  We begin with the first step.

Admitting that you have been abused and oppressed by religion is the necessary first step on the road to recovery.  You cannot skip the first step and take the rest of the steps.  Facing the reality of abusive religion and the truth of God's real acceptance of you builds a foundation for your future growth, learning, healing and recovery.

At least, this is the way that I see it.  I have come to the conclusion that what I write in the updates to you must say exactly what I believe and feel at the time.  Unless I tell you my truth as I see it, there is no point in my writing.  I change my own mind and grow in my understanding as I learn more and experience new people and new events.

Part of the first step out of denial and into the truth is recognizing and admitting the power of abusive religion over you and in the lives and thinking of every other person that your life touches: family, friends, other people, and anyone you meet.  The pervasive strength of abusive religion and its foundation in misinformation are so convincing and so vigorously defended that resisting and correcting abusive religion is an incredible daunting task.


Resisting and correcting religious abuse is not an impossible mission.  Many changes already are happening.  Accurate factual information about LGBT people and about the Bible and homosexuality is becoming more widely available every day, especially on the Internet, where there are now 55 million web sites!  When President Bill Clinton took office as president in 1993, there were 25 web sites on the Internet!  We are living in a brand new world of available information.  Ours truly is the age of the information explosion.

Consider the source of anything that you read or hear.  The Internet provides detailed material on vastly opposite points of view.  If an idea or opinion exists anywhere, it probably is available somewhere on the Internet.  The information waters are muddied for GLBT people by the tremendous amount of inaccurate information that is dumped onto the Internet every day by the "Ex-Gay" industry and other anti-gay forces generated by powerful religious and political leaders and institutions.


With a click on your mouse, you instantly can access information from around the world and from millions of sources.  Television covers everything that is happening most of the time.  The Internet news services keep you up to date on events and people in the far corners of our rapidly emerging connected world.  Why, then, is it so difficult for LGBT people to face, admit and do something about the religious nonsense, abuse and spiritual violence that is constant and unrelenting all around us?

We frequently are misinformed.  Our problem is not a lack of information but too much inaccurate and misleading information that distorts everything from the Bible to modern psychology and social science.  The most frequent response that I get about my web site is the great joy of LGBT people who find the site and eagerly write to tell me that they for the first time feel good about themselves because they have finally found the truth!

Why has not the truth about homosexuality and the religious abuse of GLBT people been more available before now?  Why has not the glorious good news of the gospel of Jesus and the unconditional inclusive love of God for all people been the clear unambiguous message of all churches that claim to follow Jesus?  Why has religious rejection and oppression of homosexuals reached such a fever pitch today that the leading cause of death of Gay and Lesbian teenagers is suicide?  Why do we continue to act upon false religious conditioning and hate ourselves when we have accurate information to show us that we are accepted and loved by the God who created us in God's image?


The first step to recovery from any addiction is to face the face that you are being destroyed by the thing that most attracts you.  The first step in recovery from alcohol, drugs, codependency, sex addiction, religion and all of the others is to admit to yourself that you have lost control.

Religion is the one addiction that most cleverly convinces its victims that they are being helped, not hurt, by their addiction.  Family, cultural institutions, peer pressure, churches, politicians, radio and television preachers, mountains of literature and thousands of web sites sustain unrelenting pressure on homosexuals to question and reject themselves as abnormal, ungodly depraved misfits that don't deserve life, liberty and the joyful pursuit of happiness.  To buy into and submit to the religious garbage of the world is to limit yourself and allow yourself to be controlled and destroyed by garbage.

Living in fear and self-hate for many people is a fate worse than death.  It is a living hell that does not go away and that seems to offer no escape.  Do you realize how many GLBT people will kill themselves today because they have been convinced by their corrupt religion that they do not deserve to live?


The Gospels often picture Jesus setting people free from "unclean spirits" or "demons".  These unclean spirits were dimly understood forces in people's lives that caused them to be self-destructive and miserable.  Addictions today serve the same functions in messing up people's lives and destroying joy and hope for millions. To liberate people from self-destructive addictions is to do the work of Jesus in the context of our modern world.

The first step to freedom from abusive forces in your life is to face and admit them and deal with them in whatever way is appropriate and effective for you.  Before you can "follow Jesus," you have to let go and "forsake everything."  This is the consistent invitation of Jesus in the Gospels.  Abusive religion was the destructive force that Jesus most often encouraged people to abandon in order to follow him.  See Philippians 3:1-4 for Paul's detailed description of his escape from abusive religion.

Why do we resist so strenuously the necessity for us to be as objective and realistic about religion as we are about everything else?  Why are we so willing to believe and act on religious teachings that we know are not logical and are not based on any reliable evidence or personal experience?  Even being in love is more objective than religion.  If you are in love with someone and discover that they have lied to you and betrayed you, you break up.  Religion, however, has lied to and deceived millions, and yet people go on following and supporting religion as though they had no brains at all!


If what I have just said has disturbed you or made you angry, ask yourself: "Why?"  If, however, you have caught a glimpse of the freedom that you can have in Jesus if you let go and move on, please let me know about it.  All that I can do is try to share honestly with you what I have seen and heard that ring true for me.  You are the one who has to explore and find your own truth that fits you and gives you the joy, love, hope and peace of self-acceptance.

Accept yourself as you are.  Jesus accepted himself and acted on what he perceived as his true identity and his purpose in life.  The Spirit of Jesus within you can empower you to accept yourself and act on who you really are with courage and great positive energy.  This is what I think it means to be "filled with the Spirit."

Rembert Truluck

"The Spirit of God is upon me, because God anointed me to proclaim the good news to the outcasts.  God has sent me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to those who cannot see; to liberate those who are kicked and stepped on and to proclaim the time of God's favor and acceptance of everyone (my paraphrase of Isaiah 61:1-2)."

(Here Jesus told his purpose in life in his hometown of Nazareth in Luke 4:18-19.  Then Jesus said that God's love includes all people, and for this the people tried to kill Jesus.)

This Update was added on December 24, 2000:

The umpire said: "Some of 'em's balls and some of 'em's strikes; but they ain't nutin' 'til I calls 'em!"

"Those who cast the votes decide nothing.  Those who count the votes decide everything." -- Joseph Stalin


You make a lot of decisions every day.  Who or what evaluates your decisions and your behavior?  Who counts your votes?  Religion offers to decide for you ahead of time and then evaluates and judges what you do.  Judgmental Legalistic religion gains a grip on multitudes of individuals when they are children and unable to decide anything for themselves.  Early childhood religious abuse can take a lifetime to correct.  (See Legalism as Idolatry)

"Child Sacrifice" was the ultimate form of religious abuse in many ancient rituals.  A Canaanite temple to Moloch, the "fire god," was established in Jerusalem in the time of Solomon and was still there in the time of Jeremiah.  Live children were offered as burnt sacrifices to Moloch.  The imagined benefits of such horror must have been just as compelling and convincing as abusive contemporary religious practices are today.  Children are still being sacrificed to religion.  Before children can make any spiritual decisions on their own, they are programmed and compelled to learn and practice basic religious traditions of their families and society.


Cooperating with the prevailing religion is rewarded.  Resistance to religion is punished in clever ways that fit the child.  When I was a teenager, I could not use the family car on Sunday if I did not go to Sunday school and church.  The car was both reward and punishment.  All of my friends learned early the same lessons of cooperation with religion.

My parents were never harsh about religion.  They simply passed on to me the community customs and expectations that they had been given.  Religious ideas and practices were unquestioned "axioms" that were assumed to be true without any need for explanation or proof.

Religion is mixed in with everything else for children.  Cleanliness, family loyalty, teeth brushing, telling the truth, learning to share, respecting others, learning basic skills, studying, preparing for a vocation and many other values in life are taught along with a mixture of religions teachings, traditions, assumptions and speculations.


Kermit said, "It's hard being green!"  It's also hard being an adult.  It's hard being your real self and feeling good about yourself.  When you are given the same punishment for not cleaning up your room, not doing your homework or not sharing your toys as for not praying, not going to church or not reading your Bible, the distinction between reality and religion can be blurred for life.

Growing up means becoming independent and making your own decisions.  Formal education attempts to prepare you for independent thinking and living in every area of life except religion.  Maturity can usually be defined in terms of your ability to make intelligent decisions based on factual information.  In religion, however, maturity is often viewed as your level of conformity to tradition and to religious conditioning that has continued from childhood into old age.  Sometimes religion seems to be an exercise in intellectual dishonesty in which you work hard to believe ideas and teachings that you know are not really true. You learn to wear the mask of hypocrisy.

Throughout my ministry as a pastor, student, scholar, writer, university professor and leader in several denominations, I have constantly been amazed at the level of ignorance and inaccuracy that is tolerated and even encouraged by religion.  If surgeons studied anatomy at the same level that most preachers study the Bible, they would be taking out tonsils through the rectum and appendix through the nose and would still be drilling holes in skulls to let out the evil spirits!  Why do we tolerate the lack of realistic objective logic in religion that we do not accept in any other area of life?  Religion is the only field of work where the professionals are rewarded and encouraged for being incompetent, illogical, misinformed and destructive.

See Paul's account of his own spiritual journey into maturity in Philippians 3:1-21.  In growing up spiritually, Paul had to let go of religion in order to have Jesus.  See Eph. 4:11-32 and 1 Cor. 13:1-13.


In religion and in politics, "liberal" and "conservative" describe contradictory points of view.  "Conservative" has come to describe a person who is primarily interested in preserving ideas and practices of the past and more recently has become an expression of the use of power to impose conservative views on people who have different ideas.  In politics for instance, the anti-abortion forces want to deny a woman's right to make her own decisions and anti-gay forces want to limit the freedom of GLBT people to be themselves.

Liberals tend to defend individual freedom and the right to do things that the majority of people might not approve.  The growing conservative takeover of contemporary religion and politics has profound implications for GLBT rights and acceptance as well as for many issues of racial and other minority progress in our society.  For many of us, the closet has been very difficult to escape.  Is there another closet in our future?  How can we overcome the suffocating encroachment of abusive religion and conservative politics into our personal lives?


Facing the year 2001, which is the real beginning of the twenty-first century, offers you the opportunity to start over and begin to grow into maturity in all dimensions of your life, including your spiritual life.  What will full spiritual maturity require from you?  What do you need to release from your life?  What do you need to add?  What are your own personal goals for spiritual maturity?

What has helped you to make progress into mature faith and spirituality so far?  What people have helped you?  What groups have helped?  What have you read that has helped?


Groups can wound and groups can heal.  Much of the misinformed and abusive religion that you have experienced has been learned in groups.  The powerful influence of people over each other in small groups is awesome.  Group discussion and sharing can re-enforce just as much negative as positive thinking and activity.  Much of the influence of the group on participants is unintentional and indirect.  I have been to many churches where I found small groups that were working hard to re-enforce misinformation and abusive religion at an alarming level.  Few group activities are as vigorously defended and protected as in abusive religious groups and families.

The closest friends and supporters of Jesus were part of a small group called disciples.  His most powerful enemies were members of groups called Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests, Levites, Sanhedrin, hometown neighbors, and sometimes even his own biological family.  What are the most significant groups in your life?  Why?  What do your groups do to you and for you?


We traditionally approach the end of the old year and beginning of the new with mixed feelings of relief and expectation.  Some things are best left behind.  Others are cherished and go with us in our continuing growth into maturity.  Anticipation of new opportunities and better ways of doing things beckon us into the next phase of life.

What do you see yourself doing in the next several months?  For the rest of what is left of the year 2,000 or for the rest of today?  What spiritual resources do you already have for spiritual growth into maturity?  Are you at a fork in the road?  How will you decide what path is best for you

God is with you, and I hope that you are aware of the spiritual power and wisdom that are within you.  You already have far more mental and spiritual resources than you realize.  Enjoy and celebrate your independence and spiritual freedom during these holidays!

Rembert Truluck

"Think for yourself.  Get your brain back."

On to Step 2


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