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 5:
Avoid Negative People And Churches

Listening to legalistic and abusive religious leaders can undercut and delay your recovery.

2 Peter 3:16-17: Paul 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.

Many 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. 

A 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."

Use 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.


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.)

Mark 3:20-21, 31-35

2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-20; Matthew 10:16-20

Galatians 5:1, 13-26

Matthew 16:13-26; John 15:11-12

On to Step 6

Update added October 15, 2002:


When 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."

When 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.)

What 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?


Don't 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!!

Your 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.

You 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.


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.

Letting 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.

This 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.

Ask 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?

You 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.


You 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 does!

Nobody 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.


I 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.

Rembert Truluck
To 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:

I 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?

Today 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):

"The 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.

"In 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.

"They 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


For many millions of LGBT people, this description by Dr. Bauman many years ago is still true.

What 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?

Deep 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 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.

Almost 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.

Homosexuals 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 false religion.


I 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.

We 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!

Rembert Truluck
July 8, 2002

 Update for November 15, 2001

Everything 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?

Paul 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.


The 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?

You 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.

Have 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.

God 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 you.


I 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!

I 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.


While 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.

I 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.

Jesus 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.


Several 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.

Take 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.

Rembert Truluck

Click "Recent Updates" on my homepage regularly.  I frequently add new information and new web links.

Update for November 8, 2001

Abusive 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.

Leprosy 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.


Sick 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.

One 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).


When 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."

When 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 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.

Religion 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!


Spiritual 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!

Read 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.

The 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.


One 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.

I 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 become!

I 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!


PRAY.  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.

THINK.  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, and practical?

LOVE.  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.

BELIEVE.  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.

Why 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.)

I 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.

Rembert Truluck

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"

"Sound" 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."

All 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


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