The Insidiousness of Spiritual Abuse

I don’t gush nearly often enough about my husband. We just don’t really have that kind of relationship at all. My husband and I both tend to be pragmatic to a fault when it comes to putting into words how we feel about each other. But tonight, after what had been a particularly stressful, like…our entire marriage, basically, he and I got a bit snippy with each other, to the point where I was beginning to get mildly triggered.

You see, I have a history of relationships with people wherein the snippiness always comes shortly before the berating and mind games and shaming, oh my!

But yeah, it got weirdly triggery for me because we really truly have been more stressed than usual lately with his mom being hospitalized right at Christmas, and my pain levels in my hips worse than usual, and all of us have been sick.

Neither of us were at our best, and I started assuming the worst and taking everything personal when he was less than his usual patient, upbeat self.

And he recognized the symptoms in me. I didn’t even have to explain that my thoughts were going to the dark places. And the most EXTRAORDINARY thing of the night happened: we both slowed down. He apologized. He said I didn’t have to apologize (something I do chronically, annoyingly, even). He didn’t take it personal, and instead wrapped me in his arms and let me cry.

What could’ve been an ugly end to a fun evening instead became a reassurance of why he and I are still together after going through cancer treatments while pregnant barely a year after getting married, after me having been through and ugly divorce in a Fundamentalist cult, after the ugly mess of me recovering from Spiritual (and other) Abuse: we’ve learned how to COMMUNICATE.

We both know the ugliest parts of each other, and we get brutally honest when we’re in those places, and we love each other through it.

It was a turning point in my life tonight, having these thoughts as I sat here in my meditation. I’ve rarely had this connection with anyone who managed to retain my trust for very long. I’m past the four year mark that my other marriage lasted. This is uncharted territory for me, as is the point I’m at in my emotional health.

I’m absolutely certain those two things are inextricably linked.


That sort of deal was never offered up while I was growing up in the Fundamentalist Church, and I know I’m not alone in that. There’s a blog going semi-viral right now about doubt and its’ place in the Christian faith, and it’s what I want to talk about today.


Toxic Christianity, the kind found in the cult-like Evangelical Churches, requires that we ignore the ugliest, dirtiest parts of ourselves, the same as it requires that we ignore the ugliest, dirtiest parts of our faith. Evangelicalism claims to have the literal only escape from eternal torment. It demands that it have the purest form of truth found in the history of mankind. The Bible must be taken literally as often as possible, and they bend and twist every which way theologically to have the best interpretation of these scriptures.


This was taught to me, as it is taught to the children in these churches today, and to hundreds of thousands of others for decades, from the time I could communicate effectively. I was taught that to question these “absolute truths” was to put myself in danger of hellfire.


Especially as a woman, I was to accept what was taught to me, to learn to parrot back what was taught, and learn to debate with others who dared to question these teachings.


No, for real. It was called “apologetics” classes. It’s literally the exact same thing they do in those churches where people come to your door with their flyers and shit. But we prided ourselves on that one distinction, mind you…we just went to state fairs and shit instead…


So when I saw this article making the rounds in the #EmptyThePews hashtags, I didn’t even bother reading it. I pretty much know exactly what it probably says, and I don’t need the triggering of the manipulation.


You see, I’m working on this theory about how #SpiritualAbuse is such an insidious form of abuse. It takes all the worst parts of so many other kinds of abuse: mental, emotional, psychological, sometimes even verbal, physical, and sexual, and convinces you absolutely that you deserve them, and will go to hell if you don’t accept it wholeheartedly, even gleefully.


After all, that’s what Jesus did, right?


Because if you even harbor doubts or worse…question it…you’re probably gonna wind up in hell. It’s why so many of us who have escaped have so many existential crises.


We #Exvangelicals have a lot to say about the major role Evangelicalism played in getting Trump elected. There were all kinds of think pieces written, especially regarding the huge number of Evangelical women who have backed Trump, Moore, and others. But everyone I know from that background have been telling these stories for months now.


There’s nothing wrong with having questions. This statement, which feels so weighty to me now, is taken for granted amongst the “secular” circles I encounter daily now. Encounters that Evangelicals do their damndest (pun absolutely intended, obviously) to avoid. I was taught to sequester myself in Evangelical circles as much as possible, and I’m quite certain that practice has not changed. That’s why it takes such a MONUMENTAL effort to deprogram/deconstruct from this upbringing.


Come to think of it, that’s probably why I turned to Wicca. The lack of dogma and encouragement to seek my own answers was and is remarkably appealing, really.

Alone is still, after all this time, the very worst thing I’ve EVER felt.


Blessed be, ya’ll.

2 thoughts on “The Insidiousness of Spiritual Abuse

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  1. I’m just beginning to find other people who grew up Evangelical/Charismatic/Fundie then managed to escape it. I saw one of your pics was in Tulsa. The Hagins of Rhema and Oral Roberts are the root of my traumatic spiritual upbringing. I lived in Broken Arrow, OK as a teenager. Sorry to hear of all the fights you’ve had to endure but glad you found strength to do it. Especially now, with Donald Dump propped up as their Golden Calf, I am thoroughly #ExVangelical & full of hot rage. Trying to find a new normal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just recently moved to Oklahoma. My Fundie roots are in the deeper, more rural south, but I’m learning how toxic Rhema and ORU are the hard way. I’m so glad you were able to escape! There’s an ExVangelical group on Facebook that you should definitely look into if you’re looking for support from like minded people! 💚

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