Bait and Switch Evangelism

I was sent a survey recently by Focus on the Family. (If you click on the link you will be taken to a page that says they are currently experiencing a 1.85 million dollar shortfall, adn would you like to donate money to strengthen families?)

I am a psychotherapist and all the psychotherapists that FotF uses as referrals received this anonymous survey. The first question was: List all of the continuing education you have done in the past year. I opened my CE file and copied and pasted for about ten minutes in between answering the phone and following up on messages. Then after the next few questions it was clear that I was not taking a survey. I was reading a hard sell advertisement for Focus on the Family services disguised as a survey. They now have a marriage retreat weekend that couples experiencing trouble can go on. They fly to Missouri or Georgia, enroll in the weekend, come back and they have an 80% rate of couples staying together for 2 years after the retreat. The retreat is so expensive that they don’t tell you the price on the website. You have to phone and talk to a salesperson.

I was furious. In fact I still am furious. They lied to me: “Take a survey.” If they had said: “We’re going to pretend to give you a survey that takes 20 minutes, and in reality we are going to try to get you to refer your couples to us so we can charge them a lot of money to come to a marriage weekend,” I would have clicked delete. But instead they tricked me. So I responded by looking for spaces that allowed me to reply. I found a couple. I responded with some coarse language calling them liars and money grubbers.

Focus on the Family is the second most successful para-church ministry in America. The most successful is Young Life.

Young Life asks for Committee members to volunteer to help the employees of Young Life evangelize to non-Christian youth. Young Life has fun

Young Life Camp evangelism

Young Life Camp evangelism

 once a week and then take as many teens as possible to luxury camps where they hear an hour to two hours of preaching and devotions per day for a week. If you volunteer for Committee you are expected to go to one training per year, about two hours’ drive away. The first year I was on Committee the training was on the topic of raising money. I felt uncomfortable, but I was fascinated by the techniques used: Always thank a donor seven separate times. Have a personal relationship with each donor. Find out the motivation behind each donor’s gift.

Booster ClubThe second year I had a slight fever and wasn’t feeling well, but decided to take the two hour drive anyway. The topic this time was on raising money. What? I was furious. Was that all there was to learn about being on Committee? When I phoned my brother to complain, he explained we were  Band Boosters. “What’s that?” I asked. That’s the club of parents of the high school band members, assigned to raise money for uniforms and instruments. “Oh! Now I get it.”

Young Life raises the most money of any para-church ministry, having passed Focus on the Family 15 years ago.

What do these two organizations have in common? Manipulation. In fact that’s what all evangelical and fundamentalist churches and ministries have in common: manipulation and dishonesty. I went to a wedding last year. The wedding couple and the minister took the opportunity to preach for an hour about marriage and God to a captive audience. Did we volunteer to go hear them preach? No. We volunteered to go encourage our relatives to have a happy marriage together. They used that time to manipulate us into listening to their viewpoint, to evangelize us.

How many times have you been invited to a church play or concert, only to be heavy handedly asked to commit your life to Christ, or convert to a new denomination?

Jesus never did that. The apostles never did a bait and switch technique of evangelism. They never preached to those who weren’t interested in what they had to say.

This is another facet of how the American version of evangelicalism, pentecostalism and fundamentalism is not an accurate reflection of Jesus.

Posted in Dishonesty, Evangelical Church, Evangelism, Manipulation | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Inerrancy of the Bible

bibleDoes the Bible claim to be inerrant? Evangelicalism, and fundamentalist Christianity is based on the claim that the Bible in its original manuscripts is the inerrant word of God for today.

Is this what the Bible claims for itself?

First of all, the Bible never speaks of itself as the Bible, never speaks of itself as a whole, or with one voice. Jesus spoke of Moses, the Prophets, the Law, or the Scriptures. Jesus referred to Scriptures many times, referring to them as “commandments” (the 10 commandments), calling the writers “the prophet Isaiah”, or “the scriptures” (literally, “the writings”). This last term, “the Writings”, is closer to our term “the Bible” than any other term used by Jesus. Throughout the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) Jesus keeps saying, “You have heard it said”.  Jesus never makes any particular claim of inerrancy about the scriptures he quotes.

burning bush

Fresco, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

There is at least one argument Jesus makes that indicates he had a high view of the accepted Hebrew scriptures, at least the book of Exodus, when he argued with the Sadducees (who did not believe in life after death) and told them that God said of Himself at the burning bush, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and JacobHe is not the god of the dead, but of the living.” Indicating that the recorded present tense of God speaking to Moses was important to Jesus in believing in the after life. God did not say, “I was the God of Abraham.”  So Abraham must have been still alive in some manner if God said, “I am the God of Abraham…”

However this reference to God using the present tense in the burning bush falls short of Jesus claiming absolute inerrancy for the book of Exodus. The words of God to Moses in the burning bush are a turning point for the nation of Israel. Those words are some of the most important that the Hebrews based their faith upon. Jesus was saying, “If you believe in any of the great promises of our heritage, then you have to believe in life after death. Those promises are based on God being the God of a living Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, even after their deaths here on earth.”

Jesus never states that the Hebrew scriptures are the inerrant word of God.

My father loved to quiz the children at church on Sunday evenings. He would call them up to the first two pews and ask them Bible questions for five minutes. Three of his favorite questions were: How many books are in the Bible? Answer: 66 books. How many writers wrote the Bible? Answer: About 40 writers. Over how many years was the Bible written?  Answer: 1500 years.

The Torah

The Torah

The Hebrew oral tradition was eventually written down, an expensive and time consuming process. All of the papyrus or leather they were written on had to be hand made or hand tanned. The ink and quills had to be hand made as well. Each synagogue would save up money to buy their own copies of Moses and the Prophets, as they could afford them. Very few people could read. As the study of the Law was commanded by Moses, so reading became an important part of a Hebrew boy’s education. Later tradition was that at age 13 each boy was to prove he could read the scriptures to the synagogue, then he was accepted as a male member. Bar MitzvahThe apostle Paul instructed Timothy not to neglect the public reading of the writings, because people didn’t have the Bible at home. They had to gather together and hear it read out loud by someone who had been taught to read.

The fundamentalist’s and evangelical’s favorite passage about inerrancy is the one penned by the apostle Paul writing to his protege Timothy that all of “the writings” that he had been taught from a child were “God-breathed” and “profitable for teaching,” etc. (II Timothy 3:16). Notice that none of these “writings” included the gospels or the letters of the Greek New Testament. Paul was of the opinion that believing in and following Christ was firmly rooted in the Hebrew writings, and that Christian congregations were more or less synagogues that had been enlightened. The officers of the church that Paul encouraged Timothy to install in each city (elders and deacons), were the same officers that existed in the synagogues of the day. When Paul uses the term “God-breathed” he is referring to the creation of Adam out of the dust of the ground, “And God breathed into him the breath of life and he became a living soul.” Just so Paul viewed the Hebrew writings as living and breathing.

stand for reading the gospelNotice also Paul does not say these writings that are God-breathed were the inerrant word of God, with zero mistakes, and no human opinions mixed in. (This argument makes no sense to fundamentalists and evangelicals. Either the light is on or off, it can’t be some dimmable dining room light.) The Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and some Lutherans have usually had no problem with degrees of god-breathedness. For instance, they have seven extra books in the Hebrew Bible that they include in their canon, but they don’t view them as highly as the rest of the writings. However, they usually ask the congregation to stand whenever they read from the gospels, regarding the gospels as more God-breathed than the rest of the writings. Evangelicals and fundamentalists get upset when discussing this, but when you get them off on their own and relaxed, they will tell you that they have favorite passages that they read, because those particular passages speak to them more than other passages. It could be argued they are saying that  some passages of the scriptures are more God-breathed than others. These same fundamentalists and evangelicals will also point to current writers, hymns and choruses that they find breath the word of God, without being inerrant.

Their second favorite passage on inerrancy is II Peter 1:20.

“No prophecy or Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

What does Peter mean by “Scripture”? Is he including the Greek letters from the Apostle Paul to the churches? Contrast this with the Apostle Paul writing,

To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

12To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.13And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him…25Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is.”

Pardon the lengthy passage, but notice that Paul repeatedly tells the Corinthian readers, throughout the passage, which items are from the Lord and which items are his own opinion, not the Lord’s. So how can every writing be prophetic, when Paul clearly states he is writing something that is not from the Lord?

The Hebrews referred to the Ten Commandments as the “Ten Words”. In contrast in the prologue to the Gospel of John, Jesus is “the Word”. When we refer to the Bible as “the Word” we are not being biblical. Jesus is the Word, and once we accept that, we have begun the move away from the elevation of the book, to the elevation of the Man.

The writing of the scripture was so expensive and so difficult and rare, that the very act of recording something on papyrus or vellum, and preserving it in a scroll, elevated that writing to a level that we cannot comprehend in our society. In our society there is so much writing, not just in bound books, or magazines, but unimaginable volumes on the internet. To us all writing is suspect: “Where did you read that? On the internet?” We approach writing from the viewpoint of a sceptic. If someone wants to write something, she has to prove what she is saying.

printerWhen did this shift occur? The major shift of looking at the scriptures from a skeptical viewpoint occurred when Gutenberg invented the printing press in the mid 1300s. And what did he print first? The gospel of Matthew, what else? It was still hard to print books. They carved words onto a block of wood, rolled ink on the wood, then laid a big sheet of paper on it. On top of that they laid wool blankets, and screwed a big press down onto the paper as hard as they could press, thus the term: printing press. Then they unscrewed it, slowly peeled off the paper without tearing it, and hung it up to dry. So books were expensive and relatively rare. But not nearly as rare as hand copied manuscripts had been before the printing press.

When movable type was invented, things started to heat up, but books were still held in high regard. A heretic was usually defined as someone whose false teaching had been published, or printed in a book, and therefore had to be opposed. Most people who just went around spouting false doctrine were ignored. It was usually those who printed their false teachings that had to be burnt at the stake.

William Tyndale was burnt at the stake for being the first to translate the Bible into English

William Tyndale was burnt at the stake for being the first to translate the Bible into English

The reformers followed closely upon the heels of Gutenberg, publishing book after book, including many translations of the Bible into the vernacular of the people, rather than the traditional Latin of the Roman church. Within 400 years most people learned to read for themselves, and there were so many books and so many opinions that people began to view books with a more skeptical attitude, a distant forerunner of today’s skepticism.

It was at this time that people revived the study of the writings of the Hebrew and Greek scriptures with a more critical eye. The early Christians discussed back and forth which books to include in the canon and which books to leave out. Now in the Renaissance, with so many opinions in print, that discussion was revived, and each claim made by each book had to be proven. The result was that most Protestants have fewer books in their Hebrew Bible, rejecting the seven books of the Apocrypha.

I knew a United Methodist preacher who had a high regard for the account of the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, but did not accept the virgin birth of Christ. I asked him how he looked at the scriptures and decided one miracle was true while another was not. He said he held the books of the Bible up to the same scrutiny he holds any book or account to. If a claim has corroborating evidence, then it is more probably true historically. Whereas if it does not have corroborating evidence, then it might not be true historically. That was a radical idea for me: to read the books of the Bible with the viewpoint that the writers had to prove themselves.

Ironically evangelicals insist that their sermons are not inerrant, their hymns and songs are not inerrant, their prayers are not inerrant, their self-help books and commentaries are not inerrant, even their Bible translations are not inerrant. But they insist the scriptures in the original manuscripts, are all inerrantly God-breathed. Catholics, and other hierarchical churches, on the other hand, insist that nothing is inerrant, but the church’s decisions are the most authoritative.

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Healing Seminar: For people who have left abusive churches

I would like to gauge how much interest there is in attending a weekend retreat. The topic of the retreat would be: How to heal from spiritual abuse when leaving a fundamentalist sect (or cult). We would organize it for three locations: Nashville, Minneapolis and Dallas.

skyWhat people have found is that if they can get together and share their stories there is so much healing that can happen. A therapist told me today that when people leave strict religious groups that they experience PTSD. It is important for people with PTSD to talk to people who have been through the same experiences.

The retreat would be led by myself and two experienced seminar leaders, two of us are therapists. There would be opportunities to do artwork expressing your journey. There would be some workshops to talk about the major methods of manipulation and spiritual abuse in these kinds of churches. There would be time to share our stories of what happened to us and where we are in our journeys. We might even do some skits to illustrate the kinds of manipulation we have been through.

One of the healing things about these seminars is that we get to experience respect from those leading the seminars, something we did not experience in the churches we left. We get to be understood for the trauma we have been through, and we get to express our opinions in an atmosphere of give and take, rather than an atmosphere of pre-judgement and threat.

Leave a comment or email me if you are interested.

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Card Counting Christians: How post-evangelicalism comes across on the big screen

holy rollersTwo days ago I saw a documentary on Netflix about a group of young post-evangelical Christian pastors who played Blackjack to support themselves. Holy Rollers: The true story of card counting Christians is a painful view for an ex-evangelical like myself.

The Seattle based group was run by church-planting pastors and members of Seattle bands. Their conversation, and especially their justification for playing Blackjack was peppered with post-evangelical, emerging-church lingo that grated on my nerves just as badly as evangelical-ese (and the lingo my old sect I grew up in uses). Phrases like: “living in the gray”, “Christians think that if they just make up that extra rule it will make living by the book easier”, and “God spoke to me”, all the while learning how to fool the casinos into giving up some of their money to them, felt like sandpaper on an already irritated soul.

casinoThere were a few moments in the documentary that were beautiful portrayals of the evangelical subculture. When they were hauled into the back rooms and questioned, the casino security could not believe how they could be paid by the hour, when they could skim so easily without getting caught. They explained  they were all Christian, which made sense to the casino operators.

Another beautiful thing was that most of the players (all male) were married with kids, as is not the case with most postmodern hipster youth in Seattle or anywhere hipsterish. Many in the hipster community are experimenting with pansexualism, gender bending, and open relationships, and eschew having children because this world is so ruined and overpopulated, not to mention collapsing ecologically.

But the faith expressed in the documentary, although discussed and fretted over, and modified somewhat, still was the result of having been raised evangelical, one’s parents being the most important factor in one’s faith. They were speaking more to their own subculture than to the community at large.

It was refreshing that they were willing to consider impacting the community at large, though beyond music, most of their involvement in the larger community was window dressing: tattoos, beards, and rolled-up skinny jeans. Their time was spent almost exclusively with their own subculture.

God spoke to meWhat one reviewer pointed out was that the arrogance of the Christians was particularly grating. Especially when “God spoke to” three of the men and they decided to kick out the only non-Christian member of their team.

One thing that was refreshing was that they were aware that their subculture was not impacting the community at large, and that troubled them. They were flirting with change, but clearly had not figured it out.

One disappointing portrayal of post-evangelical emerging-church culture was the sameness of the worship services. If you’ve visited one emerging church you’ve visited almost all of them. No differences at all. For all their talk of rebellion and change, they are followers wearing a uniform and raising money by the corporate outline in a ring binder.

One interesting thing that I experienced while watching the documentary was the Hopeful Child in me wanting to win at Blackjack. The psychiatrist Fairbairn posited that abused or neglected children develop a large Hopeful Child in adulthood that is taken in by big promises. I wondered how many of those in the card-counting group were raised in harsh evangelical and fundamentalist homes, and thus had developed a big Hopeful Child, just waiting to believe in a big promise that wouldn’t deliver.

Posted in Evangelical Church, Psychology | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Hooked by my relatives: Honor and Shame

After leaving the fundamentalist sect I was raised in years agofishing, I find that members of the sect, especially relatives, engage me in conversations about church that still hook me: somehow I am in a conversation or email exchange that I want out of, but I can’t leave, because my relative has gotten the last jab. I need to get the last jab in before I can leave the conversation.

What are my needs?  I need respect (from my relatives). I need to be heard (by my relatives). If I walk away in the middle of an argument about my faith, I lose respect, and my hard work on my faith has not been acknowledged. Yet I’ve been here before, many times. I already know I will not be heard, get respect or acknowledgement from this relative. But he has hooked me and is reeling me in. So how do I get off this hook?

I know the answer, it’s just not the answer I want. I have to ask myself, “If I weren’t hooked, what would I do?” The answer is usually, “Walk away. Drop the conversation in the middle, with my relative getting the last jab.”

This is the same advice given to people who have to live with people who have severe personality disorders or severe mental illness: When the person puts you in a no-win situation, do what you would do if you were not in the no-win situation. It’s a freeing perspective.

The reason it is so easy for my relatives to hook me is because I was raised by Shame. I don’t want to be unfair here, there were many good things about my childhood. But frequently I was scolded or ridiculed for having normal childhood needs: attention, comfort, acknowledgement, autonomy and information. This is standard child rearing in fundamentalist, alcoholic, military and mafia homes. Jesus never ridicules us for our normal needs.

RobRoySwordFightWhenever the Pharisees or Sadducees approached Jesus with a question they were challenging his honor, because they saw Jesus as a challenge to their honor. Honor, in this context, is the flip side of shame.

My relatives approach me to shame me, because I have challenged their honor. Shame is the most painful emotion to me, so I respond by defending my honor. Thus I am hooked. I cannot unhook myself until I accept that I am not going to defend my honor. I have to walk away from the conversation allowing them to shame me one more time, or I will never be able to walk away. Those are my choices: stay in the conversation defending my honor, but constantly being shamed, or walk away in shame.

Jesus honors us. Paul points out that while we were sinners Christ died for us. That he exchanged his seat of honor as the Son of God for the shame of the cross, so that we would not suffer condemnation, but be honored as sons of God. Jesus gives us His honor.

Whenever I am in a shaming conversation about religion, I can rest assured it is not a Christian conversation.

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Loyalty needs Trauma: Loyalty and the Moral Defense, Part 3

I remember an elderly woman whose mother grew up on a sheep farm in Texas, unpopular in those days, because sheep grazed the grass so short there was nothing left for the cattle. One of my her favorite expressions was: “I could beat you within an inch of your life,” an expression that her son kept alive while he was raising his children. He became a preacher in the hard line Churches of Christ, and would insist from the pulpit that when a child enters the terrible twos temper tantrum stage the parent has the moral obligation to beat it out of the child, because the Bible says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, and the rod will drive it far from it”. One of his favorite stories he would tell in his sermons was how one of his children at age two, after a spanking, flew at his father in a rage with both fists flying. So the father spanked the child again. The child flew at his father again, so the preacher spanked his child again. Over and over until the child gave up.

That child grew up, and is now loyal to his parents and the church. He won’t allow any of his siblings to rebel against, or level accusations at, his mother and father. He has questioned the basic CENI doctrine of the hard line Churches of Christ, in such a way that the whole raison d’être for their existence comes into question. Yet he attends a tiny hard line congregation, and rebukes anyone in the family who departs from the sect. His family complains that he is stingy with compliments, grumpy and sickly, the caricature of the older brother in the Prodigal Son story. One of my siblings maintains that every person in the hard line churches we grew up in had similar diagnosable personality disorders, caused by the trauma from their childhoods and from the churches they attended.

Trauma is essential to instill loyalty. Physical, verbal and emotional abuse helps to instill loyalty in any group: a school, a family, a military group, the police academy or a hard line church. The most loyal organizations: the mafia, the marines, a police force, urban street gangs, college fraternities, fundamentalist churches, all have initiation and hazing rituals that traumatize their participants. These organizations tend to attract people who find their hazing rituals normal. They find the hazing and initiation fascinating and exciting, with promises of belonging, intimacy and importance, never to be fulfilled. Not all traumatized or abused individuals will remain loyal, but all of the loyal have been traumatized.

The trauma does not have to be physical. marine scream in faceIt can be grabbing someone and shaking them, or screaming in their face. It can be a threat of emotional abandonment, even the threat of divorce in the family. One of the most powerful forms of abuse is rejecting a child’s offer of love. Any trauma will do, as long as the child’s foundation is shaken often enough.

The Moral Defense, according to Donald Fairbairn goes like this: “Whatever my parents did to me was good and right, because they are near perfect. Whatever beatings I received I deserved. Because I can only survive if the people I identify with are ideal.” In Stockholm syndrome trauma makes the person vulnerable, then the vulnerable person latches onto the strongest and most powerful relationship available: a relationship with the traumatizer. But they cannot question the traumatizer, because of fear of retribution, and more than that, because the traumatized person has idealized their caretaker/abuser into a near perfect image.

DennisMenaceSpankingThe trauma is often amusing to those in the group. Harsh spanking brings amused smiles to those who witness it, or reminisce about it. Recruits tell amusing stories about the abuse they suffered in boot camp. Fraternities and sororities laugh as they tell about the hazing rituals they endured and inflicted.

A young man told me that his father threw him across the room against a wall, because “I must have done something really bad to make him that angry.” When I told him about a four-year-old little girl in the news who had been thrown against a wall repeatedly by her parents, he said, “What did she do?” Then he stopped and realized what he was saying was ridiculous. Unless I have reached the age when I am ready to let go of my idealized parents or organization, if I blame the powerful parent (or powerful organization) for the abuse, then I can no longer idealize them. If I can no longer idealize them, then I am alone, bereft, adrift in a dark sea with no hope of salvation. So instead I blame myself. (The person who has successfully reached the teenage period of declaring independence is far less likely to succumb to the Moral Defense. A mature teen is more likely to blame the abuser.)

Trauma makes me feel deeply ashamed of myself: I deserved this trauma. But trauma also makes me feel important: someone powerful took the trouble to abuse me personally. If I walk away from the traumatizer I am nothing; there is nobody left, whom I have identified with, who thinks I am important.

It makes no sense until you experience it. Then it makes total sense. For instance, the stereotypical battered wife who repeatedly returns to her abuser. Why? She knows she is important to him. She hates the abuse, but is fascinated by someone who has intense interactions with her, like the bullied child who cuts him or herself, or contemplates suicide.

The religious sect is the same: intense interactions that fascinate the members; threats of hell, promises of heaven, threats of withdrawal; who can resist the wonderful intensity of this relationship? Is it any wonder that those who leave (or are kicked out of) the hard line sect wander from church to church looking for an intensity not offered by more moderate congregations?

Posted in civil rights, Manipulation, military, Nonviolence, Psychology, Uncategorized, Women's roles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Just Like my Daddy: Loyalty and the Moral Defense–Part 2

Military recruiters and police academies all over the world know intuitively that the way to create loyalty is to traumatize the recruits. Humiliate them, spit on them, call them names, scream in their faces, scare them, traumatize them, and in return you will get loyalty. Unfortunately you won’t get good positive interactions between these trainees and the public. What you will get from these traumatized trainees is authoritarian challenges, groupthink, and in general, running roughshod over the public’s civil rights. If you don’t believe me, try exercising your federally protected civil right not to testify against yourself, next time your vehicle is stopped by an officer. You will regret it.

Patty HearstThe public was baffled in the 1970s when a newspaper and magazine CEO’s daughter named Patty Hearst, was kidnapped by a gang of revolutionaries, the Symbionese Liberation Army. She was later caught on a bank’s security video carrying a machine gun into the bank, helping to rob the bank. The American public decided she had been brainwashed. She had been brainwashed, but first she was traumatized.

Stockholm syndrome

Bank employees held hostage in Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm Syndrome is named after the 1973 hostage taking of bank employees for six days, who later defended their kidnappers and adopted the kidnappers’ values. But this has always been true. Freed slaves wanted to own slaves. People freed from concentration camps were harsh on their children. The prisoner realizes, at a subconscious level, that in order to survive she has to take on the viewpoint of the kidnapper: Identification with the Aggressor.

BXP52548Who is fascinated by casinos? Probably those whose parents made big promises and then didn’t keep the promises. Gambling casinos match that original parent-child interaction, and the adult who bonded with a parent who never kept his promises is fascinated by a similar mirage in adulthood. Instead of running as far away from unfulfilled promises, we run towards whatever reminds us of the dysfunction and trauma of our childhoods.

But why would anyone be sucked in by an abusive church? That one is easy: Because abusive churches fascinate those of us who grew up in abuse.

Jesus said if we are not willing to forsake our mothers and fathers then we are not worthy to be his followers. Almost every interaction Jesus had with his family was difficult, negative and rejecting. He had to oppose his family from the beginning in order to accomplish his work. Jesus’ family represented themselves as followers of God, and they were upset and baffled when he ignored and contradicted them, walking away from his family.

Fairbairn, an early theoretician of Object Relations Theory and Attachment Theory, taught that children, in order to form their own identities, first bond with their parent/s. If they see negative in their parents, they are compelled to ignore it or justify it in order to maintain the kind of bonding they need to form their identities. So if their parents are neglectful, harmful or rejecting, they must justify that behavior by pronouncing themselves bad. A four year old girl told Fairbairn: “My Mommy broke my arm because I was a bad girl.” This is necessary, posits Fairbairn, because if she admits her mother is bad, she loses all hope of forming a positive identity in adulthood. She might as well jump into the abyss as to admit that her mother is not worthy of her adoration and imitation. You can see this attitude clearly in first grade boys who each insist that his father is the best father in the world.

Erikson, who floated 7 stages of psychosocial development in a person’s life, said that we could get stuck at any stage along the path, failing to accomplish an essential psychological task, and we would move forward without the equipment that stage was to provide us with. All a parent needs to do to prevent a child from declaring independence in the teen years is to traumatize the child earlier. The result of post trauma in teen years, according to James Marcia, are three choices: identity moratorium, identity diffusion and foreclosed identity. What we see most often in the sect I grew up in is foreclosed identity: taking on the identity and values of one’s parents wholesale, without critical examination. Moving forward into Identity Achievement would require courage, strength and resources that the traumatized person does not have. You can see this on Facebook with friends or relatives who repeat news stories on Facebook that support the beliefs they were raised with, without any effort to check these stories to see if they are urban myths.

house-of-cardsSo in the hard line Churches of Christ, each generation accepts their sect’s house of cards without being willing to examine the beliefs and values in any new light.

Traumatized people stay blindly loyal to their church, unwilling to break free from the dysfunctional organization that reminds them so much of their dysfunctional parents they have not been able to differentiate from.

Posted in civil rights, Dishonesty, History, Manipulation, military, Nonviolence, politics, Psychology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments