Spiritual Abuse in the Church
Spiritual Abuse in the Church by D.R.
As the marriage progressed, I became aware of the duplicity of his motives, intentions and belief systems about marriage and women in general.
We were married only four months when I was in a near-fatal car accident and had a “near death experience (NDE)”. This event left me extremely unsettled and my grandmother suggested I join a church. Shortly after, we started attending bible studies at my sister-in-law’s church. About two years later, we were baptized and made our spiritual commitments publicly before the church. It was then we began hosting bible studies in our home and participating in lay-ministry in the community.
My husband did not want me to work outside the home, so when my daughter was born I gave up my job. We had struggled with fertility issues for several years, and I was happy to be home. However, within two years of my daughter’s birth, he became passive-aggressive, prone to outbursts of anger with physical and emotional abuse. We were struggling financially because I wasn’t working and our plans to build a home were postponed. When we argued about this and other issues, he resorted to shoving me against the kitchen wall, getting close to my face in an intimidating way, and verbally berating me.
Shortly after my daughter’s second birthday, she expressed a desire to see “the big truck that Daddy drives every day at work.” We made arrangements to meet for lunch and after eating at a local restaurant, I took pictures of my daughter sitting in the driver’s seat of the truck. As she was climbing down from the seat, she accidentally kicked the pile of papers under it and a stack of Playboy magazines fell onto the ground. My husband blushed and would not meet my eyes. At that moment, my eyes were opened to the possibility he was addicted to pornography. The evidence soon bore out, and I came to understand why he no longer approached me intimately.
I told him he needed counseling or I would leave. We participated in marriage counseling twice, once for about six months with a pastor from another church in our denomination, then later with a Christian marriage and family therapist. There was never any accountability put before him; the only confession he offered was “I’ve done some things I shouldn’t have.”
I was repeatedly told, by both counselors, that if I would follow the Bible’s teachings on submissiveness, our problems would be solved.
I felt betrayed by the church and the therapist, and quit the counseling. I joined a support group for domestic violence survivors that was not affiliated with any church or denomination. After I made this change, my husband became more antagonistic. My concern for the safety of my daughter and myself intensified.
There were several incidences in the middle of the night that lead me to believe that my daughter was in danger.
She refused to sleep through the night, and I was exhausted from lack of rest. When I confronted him about this, he said I was crazy. The next few days he slept in another part of the house and we fought constantly.
I felt terrified, my gut telling me to “get out.” I hastily packed up my car and left with my daughter. We lived in the car for a few days until a friend from the support group I was part of took us in. I contacted Child Protective Services and filed a restraining order.
As the news of my situation gained momentum in my church, members and people in leadership shunned me.
I sat alone with my daughter at church services and potlucks. Some members accused me of bringing an unclean spirit into the church. Ironically, within three years of my divorce, seven other marriages in the church were dissolved because of abuse and incest. I realized many years later, that my experience brought courage to others.
The journey out of domestic violence is very much like coming out of prison.
After years of manipulation, deception and betrayal, I lost my faith, my spiritual centeredness and individuality. I decided to choose a life of discovering who I was outside the dictates of denominational religion. I began studying alone at home which deepened my understanding of the biblical concepts of “chosen”, “forgiven”, “forsaken”, “redeemed” and divorce. I spent many years outside corporate churches and found unconditional love and acceptance in the support groups of which I was a part.
I lived a solitary life with my daughter where we could heal and grow spiritually without oppression. I've been single for thirty years, and although I still desire a godly companion, I am reluctant to let another man into my life. Being the “Bride of Christ” is the safest and most nurturing relationship for me now!
Linda's Comments: I want to thank D.R. for sharing her powerful story here. Re-visiting such painful events takes courage. From our correspondence, I know there were times she struggled with the emotions brought forth as she wrote this, but as her writing progressed, she experienced some healing.
In the next seven years, my husband’s inability to get along with co-workers and to accept authority led to twenty-one jobs lost. The name calling and degradation escalated. When he became angry, I became a “slut.” He seemed to favor putting me down when other people were present, even passing people on the street whom we’d never met. Did he think this made him a man? When our first child cried, he told me to shut her up or he would give her something to cry about.
Do you have a divorce experience to share? Have you been shamed by a church because of your divorce? There are hurting people who need to hear your story, who need to know they are not alone, and who need to be encouraged. If you are interested in sharing your story, email Linda for guidelines: Linda@LindaMKurth.com
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