Listening to legalistic and abusive religious leaders can undercut and delay your recovery.
2 Peter 3:16-17:
said in all his letters "some things hard to understand, which the
untaught (ignorant) and unstable distort (twist and torture) as they do
also the rest of scriptures, to their own destruction. You
therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest,
being carried away by the errors of unprincipled people, you fall away
from your own steadfastness."
See also Mark 7:1-23 and Colossians 2:20-23.
people are startled to learn that this warning about ignorant and
unprincipled people who distort and twist scripture is contained in the
New Testament itself. For a person who has been abused and
oppressed by legalistic and judgmental religion to continue to go to an
abusive church or tune in to abusive religious broadcasts is like an
alcoholic going back to bars. Family pressures, long term
religious conditioning from childhood, and a desire to "fit in" can
lead you into unhealthy religious situations.
friend recently told me that she grew up in a loving and healthy church
where the pastor's first words to every baptismal class were, "Beware
of any church that tires to tell you how to think."
your brain. Think for yourself. Jesus did not say, "Follow
the rules, follow Paul, follow the traditions, follow the priest or
preacher, follow the church, or follow the Law."
Jesus gave only one invitation to all people equally, "Follow ME."
Resist the spiritual virus of legalism. Legalism
is alien to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Legalism is
spiritual "antimatter" that dissolves the love, patience and acceptance
that God intends you to have towards other people. Exposing
yourself to legalistic religion is like exposing yourself to a deadly
virus. It is a chance you do not want to take! Read and
study carefully the section of this web site on Legalism as Idolatry.
See also: "JESUS AND FAMILY VALUES"
Further discussion of Step 5 can be found in my book Steps To Recovery From Bible Abuse in the following Lessons:
(Click on the Bible references to see them.)
No. 17. "HOW JESUS DEFINED FAMILY VALUES"
Mark 3:20-21, 31-35
No. 18. "SPIRITUAL WARFARE"
2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-20; Matthew 10:16-20
No. 19. "STINKING THINKING AND GAY BASHING"
Galatians 5:1, 13-26
No. 20. "FREE TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF"
Matthew 16:13-26; John 15:11-12
On to Step 6
Update added October 15, 2002:
LIVE TODAY BY FORGETTING THE PAST
we think of "forgetting the past" we usually focus on events, people,
and experiences in our past that have hurt us or have distorted our own
image of ourselves. Sometimes we have the most trouble forgetting
what happened yesterday, this morning, or five minutes ago! The
only way that we can "move on" is first to "let go."
Paul talked about forgetting the past, he was speaking about his
previous legalistic judgmental religion that had distorted his mind and
his heart against the inclusive unconditional love of God. Paul
was trying to forget his greatest success! He had been very
successful in building and maintaining a powerful abusive obsessive
legalistic personal religion. (See Philippians 3:1-14.)
in your past do you most need to let go to improve your life now?
Is it something that someone did to you? Or is it something that
you did to yourself? Is it a broken relationship that will not
heal? What will most help you to let go of the past and move on
into the positive present?
fall in love with your baggage! Baggage that drags you backwards
and halts your progress can be affectionately retained and lovingly
grasped in spite of the damage that it is doing to your life.
Negative angry people are often the most difficult baggage to
discard. Maybe you enjoyed being abused and demeaned because you
were early on convinced that you were unworthy and useless. Be
objective and realistic. Do you really deserve the ugly and
destructive emotional abuse you have received? NO!!
past is always valuable, if you can keep it in perspective and learn
from your past without trying to live there. Everything that has
happened to you is an important lesson that has taught you something
you needed to know. Every person who has touched your life has
been your teacher. But now, you let go and move on.
do not continue to attend the third grade where your best teacher
finally taught you how to read. You do not linger in your junior
year in high school where you learned to think for yourself and relate
with confidence to your peers and your teachers. You do not try
to stay in those relationships that taught you how not to hate yourself
even if someone else hated you. You have learned how to let go
and move on. Some of your baggage is probably pretty wonderful
and gives you great pleasure remembering how you made the team, wrote a
play, got elected to office, or finally had sex with the person you
wanted. You cannot live in your past whether it was terrible or
fantastic. Your past is gone. You can only live today.
ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE
You cannot control other people, but you can control your own thoughts. (Read again the
suggestions of Paul about positive thinking in Philippians 4:6-8.)
You cannot go back and "cancel out a half a line", but you can let the
positive Spirit of God's presence within you give you a fresh new
perspective on whatever you remember and what you learn from your past
experiences and relationships.
go of old resentments, hurts, fears, obsessions, habits, and negative
people can equip you to move on into cheerful pleasant new
territory. Do positive things for yourself. Replace worry
and depression with pleasant trips, go to fun places, and find and
enjoying happy people.
may be challenging and require some real changes in your accustomed
lifestyle. Some old negative habits will have to go. New
ways of seeing yourself and others can be nourished and developed.
yourself what you need to change for yourself in order to have a
happier more peaceful productive life. Write down the basic goals
you already have and meditate on how those goals really look to you
now. Are they realistic? Are they really yours?
may decide to abandon some goals and pursue some new ones. Do
whatever works for you in breaking your bondage to useless baggage and
to negative people and forces in your life.
DON'T TRY TO CHANGE OTHER PEOPLE
cannot change or control other people. You can love them, and you
can leave them. You can avoid them, but you cannot control
them. You can, however, change yourself and hopefully you can
still control yourself. If you don't control yourself, then what
ever said that it would be easy to change course in mid-stream or to go
back to square one and start over. You actually cannot go back to
square one. You can, however, move on to a new square one and
draw on your own experiences and your inner voice from the presence of
God within you and mark out a new positive path for yourself. You
don't really need other people to give you the results of their
failures and mistakes in the form of advice. Avoid letting
"principalities and powers," especially religious misinformation and
demands, give direction to your future. Nobody else really got
you into whatever mess you are trying to leave, and nobody else can get
your life back on a positive track. It's up to you.
SURGERY NEXT TUESDAY
will have cancer surgery on my nose next Tuesday, October 22, 2002, at
San Francisco General Hospital. Pray for my doctors that they
will do a good job; so that I can continue to do mine.
live in the present, you have to "live one day at a time". All that any
of us have is "one day at a time." God will help you to live
today: "one day at a time."
This update added on July 8, 2002:
"OVERCOMING THE FORCES"
am constantly impressed by how much negative pressure and abusive
religion GLBT people continue to face and struggle to overcome.
E-mail every day reminds me that powerful destructive forces that often
do the most damage within our own minds and attitudes surround
us. How much progress have we really made?
I ran across and read again the statement made many years ago by Rev.
Dr. Edward W. Bauman, Pastor of the Foundry Methodist Church in
Washington, DC. and the teacher of a radio Bible class for 20
years. Dr. Bauman had preached a strong sermon condemning
homosexuals. Two of the gay men in leadership in his church came
to him and told him the truth about GLBT people. This changed Dr.
Bauman's life and ministry. I met these two men when I visited
the Foundry Methodist Church in the summer of 2000 to conduct a
workshop as part of my first tour for my book.
This is Dr. Bauman's statement that is included in Bruce Hilton's book: "Can Homophobia Be Cured?" (Published in 1992: page 99):
thing that impressed me most, however, and moved me deeply was the
discovery of the incredible amount of suffering experienced by
homosexuals. For centuries the church refused to serve them Holy
Communion. They were often stripped, castrated, marched through
the streets, and executed. In Hitler's Germany they were
exterminated by the thousands in the furnaces and gas chambers.
our own country, gay persons are disowned by their families, ridiculed
and rejected by society, made the object of cruel jokes, and forced to
laugh at the jokes lest their "secret" be revealed.
are barred from jobs and housing, often living in loneliness, seeking
companionship in sordid places and in devious (and dangerous)
ways. They have become the "lepers" of our society. How
many young people are there who lie awake at night, terrified by these
"feeling," with no one to talk to?"
Dr. Edward W. Bauman,
UMC pastor and Bible teacher
NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED
For many millions of LGBT people, this description by Dr. Bauman many years ago is still true.
has happened in your life to change things for you? What have you
been able to do to overcome the powerful negative forces around you and
within you? How far do you have yet to go to be able to declare
your personal independence from homophobic pressures, social powers,
and negative religious conditioning?
within many of us, lurking in the shadows of our distant past, are
feelings and fears that sometimes break into our thinking and our
actions. Mahan Siler calls these fears our "accusing inner
voices". Every day I receive e-mail from all parts of the United
States and many foreign countries describing these accusing inner
voices and searching for help in my web site and from other GLBT people.
I AM ENCOURAGED
am very encouraged by the help that many LGBT people and their families
and friends have found in my web site and book, but the tiny number of
people that have discovered the truth is still discouraging.
Friday evening at my brother-in-law's birthday party, I met and talked
with Judith, a friend of my sister's, who had received a copy of my
book. Judith told me of her work with international AIDS services
and said that she had sent my book to a friend in Uganda to use in
group study to help people there who are wrestling with the same
negative forces that we face, but in much greater intensity.
every day I receive e-mail from people who tell me that my material has
completely changed their lives. The joy and enthusiasm of these
new discoveries are related with great excitement in their
letters. For every GLBT person who discovers the truth and hope
for living, there are still multitudes of others who are overcome by
the darkness of homophobia and social rejection.
around the world continue to give up hope and kill themselves in
shocking numbers. There is no place to hide from homophobia and
abusive religion. Your only road to peace of mind and self-esteem
is to face and overcome the powerful forces that our world is hurling
against you in the name of an abusive "god" and distorted destructive
ABUSIVE RELIGION AND POLITICS
am on several wonderful news lists that give up-to-date reports from
religious institutions and news media about anti-gay movements and
developments. The lists of homophobic news items grow longer and
more outrageous every day! Yet millions of people believe and
support the lies and misinformation that are being poured out into a
deadly cultural cauldron of death and destruction.
individually and collectively have been unable to stop the flow of
deadly political and religious rhetoric against us. We can,
however, challenge all of it with our own personal truth, just as the
two gay men did in their visit to Dr. Bauman in Washington, DC many
years ago. Knowing and telling your own story has great power in
two ways. You build your own self-confidence and self-acceptance,
and you share with others the one thing on which you are the world's
authority: your own personal experience!
July 8, 2002
"ALL IN YOUR MIND"
Update for November 15, 2001
that you experience or think goes through your mind. Your mind is
the source and clearing house for everything that seems to be real to
you. What do you do to take care of your mind and keep it
healthy? Does your mind ever play tricks on you?
suggested in Philippians 2:5 that you, "Let this mind be in you that
was also in Christ Jesus," and in 1 Corinthians 2:16 added, "We have
the mind of Christ." Ephesians 4:23 calls upon you to "be renewed
in the spirit of your mind." William Barclay wrote a large
helpful book on "The Mind of Christ." In Jesus, we are given a
"new mind." Read again the description of the "mind of Jesus" in
Philippians 2:1-11. Every detail of this study of the mind of
Christ is intensely practical and valuable.
"YOU ARE WHAT YOU THINK"
old saying, "You are what you think about all day long, " has a ring of
truth about it. Proverbs 23:7 observed: "As you think in your
heart, so are you." How much control do you have over what goes
into your mind? In our over-stimulated culture of excessive
information and abusive advertising, we have to work hard to filter
what gets into our minds and lodges somewhere in our brains. How
much control do you exercise over the emotional dimension of your mind?
do have the power to decide how you feel about what is happening to
you, even though things that happen may be completely out of your
control. A lot of intentional effort is required to keep your
mind under your own control and not let other people decide what you
think and feel.
you found a way to resist letting abusive words and actions from others
make you feel valueless and inferior, even though you are
neither? Is somebody in your life constantly filling your mind
with negative thoughts about yourself? If so, how have you
handled it? Do you let someone talk you into being angry and
losing your cool? These may seem like trivial questions, but
everyday life is made up of trivia that snowballs into a lifestyle and
a way of life.
created your brain and your mind and gave you the capacity to be
reflective and to think logically and objectively about what is
happening to you and around you. God will help you to sort it
out. God has a vested interest in your sanity! God is not
insane or out of control emotionally, and God can help you to gain the
vital balance in your mind and feelings that is healthy and happy for
VISIT TO MY MOTHER
will fly to Atlanta on Thursday, November 15, and drive to Laurens,
S.C., to visit my mother at the Martha Franks Retirement Center and
then return to Atlanta on Sunday, November 18, to fly back to Oakland
on Monday. My mother is 90 years old now, and she still reads all
of these updates and discusses my ministry with me on the phone.
I am proud of my mother!
am grateful for her love, encouragement and support. I benefit
from her prayers every day. I live much of my life based on the
values and ideals that both of my parents gave to me from the moment I
was born. I will enjoy and be uplifted and encouraged by this
visit. My youngest daughter Susan, to whom my book is dedicated,
will drive up from Charleston with her partner Janice to visit with us
on Saturday. All of this will be a special treat for me.
I will write to you again next week and tell you what I have learned on this trip.
REV. JAY NEELY
I am in Atlanta, I will have the privilege of meeting with Rev. Jay
Neely, District Coordinator of the Gulf Lower Atlantic District of MCC,
which includes Atlanta and Nashville, where I have enjoyed ministry in
the past. Jay is a long time friend and I expect to learn a lot
from visiting with him and his partner George in Atlanta. Jay
Neely is one of the main people who encouraged me and inspired me into
writing and publishing my book and who ushered me into MCC ministry and
beyond during the past 20 years.
will visit with some other close friends in Atlanta for the first time
in several years, and that will be fun. To me, people are the
most important thing in my life. People in your life help to
shape your life and determine how you see yourself. I am grateful
to the people who have helped me to see value in myself that I could
not see on my own.
also helped people to see far greater value in them selves than they
had expected. Whenever you are encouraging people and helping
them to feel greater self-esteem and a stronger sense of value and
worth to the world, to God, to others, and to themselves, you are truly
following in the steps and in the spirit of Jesus.
of you asked for the e-mail address for pastor Nicky van der Bergh of
the Agallia Ministries in Pretoria, South Africa. See web site
for Agallia Ministries, which includes e-mail access. I have also added new links to helpful information at
the beginning of the "Recent Updates" page.
time to listen to others. Ask yourself what God is trying to
teach you in every conversation you have. When you encourage
others, you automatically encourage yourself also. You have a
constant choice every day. You can let your mind dwell on and
intensify your imagination of negative hurtful things, or you can
magnify and dwell on the positive healing feelings and experiences that
come your way.
You really do have a choice about what you think about all day long.
Click "Recent Updates" on my homepage regularly. I frequently add
new information and new web links.
Update for November 8, 2001
religion cannot produce healthy spirituality. Where Paul used the
term "sound doctrine" or "sound words or teachings," the word "sound"
meant "healthy" and Paul was talking about healthy teachings that build
healthy spirituality. (See Bible references below.) Extremism,
fanaticism, prejudice, ignorance, hypocrisy and a lot of other unclean
spirits produce decay, sickness and death in one's spiritual life.
in the time of Jesus was a term for a great variety of diseases that
caused blemishes and disfigurement. Hypocrisy and abusive
religion also cause spiritual blemishes and disfigurement. Jesus
healed both leprosy and hypocrisy. Jesus gave the gift of health
and wholeness by liberating people from abusive sick religion. We
are called to do the same today.
religion is like many other forms of human sickness in that the
sufferers of sick religion often do not recognize or admit that they
are sick. They see nothing wrong with the abusive destructive
religion that infects their lives at every level. After all, God
is the source of religion, and how could that be bad? Sick
religion teaches people to deny and to justify the judgmental attitudes
and destructive legalistic religious beliefs and behaviors that afflict
most sufferers of sick religion.
definition of "health" is "the absence of sickness." Yet many
forms of sick thinking and behavior go under the name of
religion. Loss of emotional control, especially anger, is often
denied and masked by being projected onto other people. When we
are sad, we can say, "I am sad." When we are happy, we can say,
"I am happy." But when we are angry, we say, "You are stupid!"
Dr. Wayne E. Oates in "
When Religion Gets Sick"
said, "When I use the word 'sick' I am referring to a specific
functional breakdown. When religion is sick, it massively hinders
the basic functions of life. Malfunction, then, is the criterion
of sickness." He added, "In other words, the word 'sick' is not
used in some global vague, or moralistic sense here. It refers to
specific situations in which particular people suffer major failures of
functioning in the conduct of their lives because of religious
preoccupations and stumbling blocks." (See pages 20-21).
HEALTH AND WHOLENESS
Jesus asked the man at the pool if he wanted to get well (John 5:6),
the literal meaning of the Greek is: "Do you wish to be made
whole?" Frequently the healings by Jesus are said to make people
"whole". Health and wholeness go together in the teachings and
ministry of Jesus. Jesus ministered to and healed the whole
person in all dimensions of life: the physical, spiritual, mental,
emotional, and relational. Healthy spirituality brings all of
life into harmony and wholeness. As Colossians 1:17 said, "In
Jesus Christ all things hold together."
the human mind or body is at war within, unhealthy living emerges and
dominates the life of the individual. Internal conflict can be
the attack of cancerous cells against the healthy cells or can be the
schizophrenic attacks of the mind against itself. James 1:8: "A
doubled minded person is unstable in all her/his ways." Soren
Kierkegaard wrote an entire devotional book based on this verse:
"Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing." Kierkegaard saw the
solution to double mindedness to be found in willing only the will of
God. He concluded that the only way one can will one thing is to
will the will of God, for if you will anything else besides the will of
God, you are willing many things, not one.
THE HEALING SPIRIT OF JESUS
Spirit of Jesus heals and makes us whole. Sick abusive religion
is the opposite of the Spirit of Jesus. Love is the most powerful
healing force in the world. Love heals and nourishes and never
gives up. Love can even heal abusive sick religion. The
love of Jesus did exactly that during his earthly ministry.
is probably never sicker than when it is based on prejudice and
misinformation and is used by people with low self-esteem to demean and
belittle others in order to make themselves feel superior and more
powerful. The use of religion to put people down and to judge and
condemn those who are already beaten down and rejected by society is
the greatest crime of present day religion in America.
Healthy spirituality based on love and self-acceptance is contagious; just as sick
spirituality based on fear and self-hate is contagious. Whatever you have is contagious!
healing takes place within individuals one at the time. Spiritual
health and healing are not a mass movement with great crowds and
entertaining television performances. Jesus healed people one by
one. Each individual was important to Jesus and each person was
heard and treated in whatever way best fit him or her. Jesus'
methods of healing varied from person to person. There was no
special formula that fits all!
the stories in the Gospel according to John in chapters 3 and 4 about
Nichodemus the Pharisee who came to Jesus in the middle of the night
for fear that someone might see him and the "Woman at the Well" who met
Jesus alone at the well in the middle of the day, when nobody else
would be there. Notice how some of the most familiar teachings of
Jesus, like John 3:16-17 and John 4:24 are given in the context of
one-on-one conversation with no audience present.
conversations of Jesus with Nichodemus and with the Woman at the Well
dealt with replacing unhealthy religion with healthy
spirituality. Both Nicodemus and the woman were afflicted with
negative spiritual attitudes and misinformation. Spiritual
healing is delayed and often killed by the negative spirits of
legalism, prejudice, ignorance, hypocrisy, and anger.
NEGATIVE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE
of the basic steps to recovery from abusive religion is Step 5: "Avoid
Negative People and Churches." Negative attitudes in religion and
in your personality can bring you down and can take everybody you know
on a negative downer just by your gloomy presence, your judgmental
"preaching" and your legalistic attitude.
know what I am talking about, because for many years I was a "preacher"
and I frequently fall into the abysmal habit of preaching to somebody I
know very well and love very much only to find that I am vigorously
pushing that person away and don't even realize how "preachy" I have
often suggest that you should get negative people out of your
life. They will bring you down and dampen your enthusiasm for
everything that really matters to you. Have you ever thought that
you might be the negative person that somebody needs to get out of
his/her life? It's a sobering thought, isn't it!
TECHNIQUES OF SPIRITUAL HEALTH
There is no substitute for prayer. A friend in Mexico wrote me
recently to tell me how turning again to pray had radically changed his
whole life for good. Try prayer: you'll like it! Jesus
prayed and taught his followers to pray. Prayer includes
listening. Look at Philippians 4:6-7 again and take it seriously.
Use the marvelous brain that God gave you. Think objectively and
logically about your situation and what your options are. Paul
gives a list of very positive things to think about in Philippians
4:8. "You better think, think, think about the consequences of
your actions!" as the great Aretha Franklin sang in "The Blues
Brothers." Think for yourself, because if you let others do your
thinking for you, you aren't really thinking for yourself, are
you? How much of your thinking is logical, objective, realistic,
I am constantly learning over and over what love really means and what
loves means for me and for my most intimate relationships and
friendships. One characteristic of real love that I have to
relearn over and over is that love "throws a cloak of silence over what
is displeasing in another person." (1 Cor. 13:7). Effective
satisfying love is a gift from God. We still work hard to
manufacture our own brand of manipulative, controlling, possessive love
and then wonder why it doesn't work at all! Love is
generous. Try "giving yourself away" and see what happens.
Who do you really trust: God, yourself, special friends, and perhaps
"experts" in everything from science to religion and beyond? A
lot of us have gone through phases in our lives when we trusted nobody,
not even ourselves. What have you believed and trusted that most
has disappointed you? Why did you continue to trust the same
doubtful things over and over again? None of us knows all of the
sources of our unhealthy spirituality or the roots of our positive and
negative impulses. If our spirituality is unhealthy, most of us
don't have a clue of why.
TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT YOURSELF.
Socrates said: "The unexamined life is not worth living." The
unexamined faith is not only not worth having, it is also can be
abusive, dangerous and destructive. Every individual has a
spiritual dimension to life. Spirituality can be negative or
positive, healthy or unhealthy, filled with prejudice and anger or
filled with love and compassion.
is it so hard for us to take a good honest objective look at our own
spirituality? Whatever the reason for your neglect of your own
spiritual health, you can take the positive step of getting on with
your life and taking the further positive step of getting negative
people out of your life. Take a good long look at the life and
work of Jesus as the Spirit of Jesus guides your mind and your heart
into healthy positive self-esteem and spiritual wholeness. (See
link to Step 3 below.)
pray that your spiritual life will be a great asset in your healthy
self-acceptance and sense of worth and value to yourself, to others and
to God. My purpose continues to be to help all of us to feel good
about who we are and to quit hurting each other and ourselves.
See also Wayne E. Oates: "Behind the Masks: Personality Disorders in Religious Behavior." The Westminster Press: 1987.
See Step 3: "Examine Your Faith" And Step 5: "Avoid Negative People and Churches"
or "healthy" regarding doctrines and teachings appears in 1 Timothy 1:0
(which contains a serious translation problem that I discuss in the
section on 1 Timothy 1:10 in my web site and book material about "The
Bible and Homosexuality: Six Passages Used Against Homosexuals.")
For "sound" see also 1 Timothy 4:6; 6:3; 2 Timothy 1:13; 4:3; Titus
1:9, 13; 2:1, 2.) The word "healthy" or "sound" is Greek "hugiaivousa" from "hugiaina"
which means, "sound, whole, healthy, in good health." This word
was often used in the Greek Hebrew Bible (The Septuagint: LXX) for
"shalom" which means, "peace or peaceful."
of Paul's references to "sound" or "healthy" are in the "Pastoral
Epistles," which Luke, a physician, helped to write. ("Luke alone
is with me" in 2 Timothy 4:11.) See this word for "sound,
healthy" in Luke 5:31; 7:10; 15:27.
On to Step 6