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.)
buse is use of power by the strong to control and oppress the weak.
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.
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
section for books on religious abuse and addiction.
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.
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.)
No. 1. "JESUS CAME TO REPLACE SICK RELIGION"
No. 2. "JESUS FACED RELIGIOUS BIGOTS"
Matthew 21:45-46; 22:15-22; 23:6-12, 27-33
No. 3. "ESCAPE FROM IDOLATRY"
No. 4. "KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE"
The Book of Philippians 3:1-14
Click Here for a recent update related to Childhood Abusive Religion
On to Step 2
"REMEMBER, REBUILD, RENEW"
Update for October 6, 2002
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.
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.
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..)
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
WE STAND AT A TERRIFYING CROSSROAD
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!!
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.
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
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
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
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!
REMEMBER AND REBUILD
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.
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"!
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
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.
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?
DREAM AND RENEWAL
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.
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.
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.
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM?
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
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:
"THE FIRST STEP"
What kind of power does abusive religion have over your mind and life?
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.
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.
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.
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.
NOT A "MISSION IMPOSSIBLE"
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
THINK FOR YOURSELF
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.
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."
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:
"WHO UMPIRES YOUR GAME?"
The umpire said: "Some of 'em's balls and some of 'em's strikes; but they ain't nutin' 'til I calls
"Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything." -- Joseph Stalin
WHO DECIDES FOR 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)
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.
REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTS
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.
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.
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.
BECOMING AN ADULT
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.
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.
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.
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.
LIBERAL VS. CONSERVATIVE
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.
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
GROW UP IN 2001
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?
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?
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
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?
THE END AND THE BEGINNING
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.
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
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!
"Think for yourself. Get your brain back."
On to Step 2