Category Archives: Religion’s Cell Articles

Unfairly Judging Others is Dangerous

John 7:24 – Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

judging4One of the areas of life where many people fail is in judging others fairly. In today’s society, we judge people based on whether or not they agree with us.  If a person does not agree with us, the tendency is to attach labels to them and talk bad about them any time their name is brought up in a conversation.  Some will even go a step further and orchestrate situations that will further make the target of their slander, appear as they say.  I have even watched many religious zealots twist words and scripture to their viewpoint to “prove” themselves “right” and their opponents wrong in order to incite other believers to violence against those who disagree with them.  Sadly, there may be agreement in many areas, but one area of disagreement can make any individual become an enemy. Judging others unfairly leads to division. Division leads to fighting; and, fighting can lead to war.  The two main areas where this type of unfair judgment is exercised is in religion and politics. Within these two areas of society, it is nothing to bash or harm those who disagree; not only this, but publicly!

What we fail to realize is that by doing so, we are practicing slander and hate against our neighbor. God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  In my mind, anyone who steps on someone else to elevate themselves, their opinion, or belief, is not to be trusted no matter who they are; no matter their credentials. If they will do it to others, they will do it to you as soon as you are in disagreement with them or their beliefs.  There is a way to disagree with a person and allow them to retain their integrity and character without trying to attack and destroy it.  Everyone should read my article, “Handling Opposing Beliefs.”

unfairly judgingAny time we tear another down because of differences, we are propagating hate, not love, toward our neighbor. This is the same neighbor that God commands us to love and to do good to! Any time we use our words to attack another because of disagreement, it shows the true lack of character of the individual voicing the slander. That person has some more growing to do. It does not make that person a “bad” person. It just means they need to grow more.  However, we must not be ignorant of the fact that a person who does such things can eventually become dangerous because they could get to a point where they stop at nothing to destroy the one whom they oppose. This holds true in religion and politics.

Has it ever occurred to any of us that just maybe the person we think so negatively about may have some good traits or qualities about them that are admirable? Could there even be some really fantastic accomplishments done by the one in whom we judge unfairly? What have they endured to get to where they are today?  judging2Could these ones we oppose be moral, upright, God-fearing men and women who have great marriages and families, but along the way, made a mistake or two?

It’s time to stop the hate and slander and remember the good of the individual. It’s time to let go of pride and arrogance and humble ourselves enough to be willing to consider an opposing view for the good it may contain, or, the truths it may reveal. We should not be afraid of hearing truth just because it is opposite of what we have been taught to believe. Be slow to judgment, quick to hear, slow to act.

labelsWhen we spread slander and attach labels to people, we are automatically telling the world they are less than; they are worthless; they are to be opposed; they are to be silenced. I see cyberspace filled with labels such as: haters, bashers, feminists, Democrat, Republican, Atheist, Gay, conservative, liberal, fat, ugly, liar, etc.  PEOPLE are not the labels we attach to them. People are all human beings with feelings. We all have good and bad qualities. We are mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. We are not the labels attached to us in order to divide us and bring harm upon us. Labels divide! Men and women are using labels to divide and/or destroy the ones they’ve attached labels to, whether they realize it or not.

In religion:

  • I see religious leaders slandering, discrediting, and attaching labels to abuse victims.
  • I see religious leaders asserting their beliefs as the only truth and attacking publicly, those who present a differing truth or belief. One religious faction is actually murdering their opposition (ISIS)!
  • I see religious followers physically attacking, stalking, harassing, and slandering sexual assault victims who step forward to the police.
  • I see religious followers entering into chat rooms, forums, and private facebook groups to spew their slander in order to win more people to their cause and to motivate others to attack the same person(s) they oppose.

MErhmanany have become too arrogant to search out the truth about what they have been taught to believe. Many religious people do not realize scriptures have been changed to suit a particular faction’s agenda and belief. The thought of which, is abhorrent; so it falls on deaf ears. My blog is full of Greek and Hebrew Scholar’s findings on scripture corruption that is fully ignored in order to believe the ones who “believe as they do!” “They” are the experts, not the ones I quote who truly are.  I say this with much sorrow and disappointment.

Sadly, the desired outcome is to destroy the target in every instance. It would be wise to beware of those that spew negative and hateful comments about others, whether publicly or privately. Think twice about acting on what they tell you against another human being even if they quote scripture to do so. Many innocent people have been destroyed by such conduct and we will all have to give an account to God for it.

In Politics:

  • I see Republican and Democrats alike advertising their slander and hate on television and the internet against their opponents running for office.
  • I see Republican and Democratic followers alike fighting and arguing amongst each other.
  • I see Republican and Democratic followers looking to be offended at every opportunity so they can rail on some poor unsuspecting soul for sharing some article that had a political statement in it they did not notice.
  • I see a country divided by political faction.

politicalThe level of anger and emotion across this country is at an all time high. The deceitfulness, the slander, and the division taking place in our country is all due to unfair judgment of others; and even worse, it’s due to an insatiable appetite for control of others, money, and power!  There are agendas out there. Everyone seems to have one. If we don’t get rid of the agendas and change our thinking in order to look out for the common good, our country is doomed. It will become a hotbed of tyranny and deception in all areas of society. The ones who will suffer as a result will be the weak and vulnerable – the aged, the disabled, women, and children.

In order to judge fairly, we must be willing to remove politics and religion from the equation. Politics and religion cause war. Politics and religion imprison.  Politics and religion divide. Politics and religion distort truth.  Only then, can judgment be based on facts and fairness.  It’s time for Americans to get outside of themselves and realize that we are all human. We all do good. We all do bad. The problem lies in our focus. Let’s stop focusing on the negative and work on building upon the good! God calls it “edifying” our neighbor.  Each individual has within themselves the ability to do good. When that ability is stifled through deception and influence, the outcome is negative and the impact, far reaching.

judging0We should consistently make an effort to acknowledge positive traits in those we disagree with and develop a habit of not mentioning anything negative, attacking, or slanderous in the same sentence. Too often, I hear a positive comment followed up with at least half a dozen or more negative comments! THAT is not how we as human beings should be conducting ourselves. If more people would force themselves to acknowledge the good and then shut their mouths, we would not see much of the division we currently see in society. Just because you don’t like someone does not give you the right to broadcast their weaknesses, faults and other things you don’t like about them. As difficult as this may sound, we must always keep in mind the good things done by those we disagree with or oppose –  even if you know of negative things they’ve done.  If we don’t, we will dehumanize them.  Dehumanization leads to abuse, and possibly the death of, the individual. Currently, ISIS has dehumanized Christians. They can be murdered, tortured, and raped because they do not agree with Islamic belief! Recently, a man was beheaded by a Christian in Oklahoma because he was practicing witchcraft and the killer disagreed with him doing that! Unfairly judging others can incite people to violence and murder of those who are dehumanized.

Over the last five years I have seen the public slander, humiliation, and character assassination of people by religious zealots who do not even know the people they are destroying! How can this be? They are basing their actions on the “opinions” of others who believe as they do and/or, in many cases, corrupted or twisted theological teachings.  This is why it is imperative that we “park” opinions about others, publicly.  unfairly judging2How foolish to destroy people you don’t even personally know just because you disagree with their viewpoint, religious belief, or lifestyle! This is the biggest problem in America right now.  Everyone is sitting in the “Judgment Seat” exercising judgment based on false assumptions, other’s opinions, religious belief, political belief, etc. People are being dehumanized all around us and attacked and destroyed.

If you disagree with someone or do not like them, keep your mouth shut about them! Anything you say will not be fair. If their name comes up in a conversation, hold your tongue and your opinion! No one can see the “good” in those they oppose. Keeping the mouth shut and parking one’s opinion is for the common good as well as the good of the person disliked. Parking one’s opinion has to be practiced. It is not an easy thing to do in today’s culture where everyone believes they have a right to their opinion, even if it is hateful, destructive, and attacking. The truth is this: God commands us to judge fairly. When you are emotional, it is very difficult to judge or speak fairly; especially, if you are in disagreement with someone.  The best position to take in a disagreement is this: whatever you are going to say should be fair, gracious, and kindly stated while allowing the opponent to retain integrity and save face. It should not be loaded or anger inducing. It should not “point” the hearer into a place of hostile judgment or action.

There is so much more I could say on this topic of judging others unfairly. It is because of this practice that the weak and vulnerable suffer. It is because of this tactic, our country is divided. It is because of this tactic, thousands suffer loss. Let’s stop judging others and judge ourselves instead. If we all changed ourselves for the better, America could be a great nation again.  As long as our nation is divided, it cannot be great. It is only through unity we can remain strong. Division allows the enemy to enter in and destroy.

The REAL change begins with each of us changing our attitudes and perspectives, exercising HUMILITY with those we disagree with, and making a conscious effort to use words that allow our opponents to retain their integrity. The real hope and change for America is within ourselves, not the government, not religion. If we change ourselves, America changes.

We are Not Entitled to Anything

We are not Entitled to Anything

entitlement picOne of the prevailing attitudes in society today is the attitude of “entitlement.” Countless multitudes of people believe that they are “owed” or “deserve” things based on who they are or what they have done.  As an adult, I often find myself saying, “I deserve better than what has been handed me.” Sometimes, I have even felt I deserved the love and respect of my children as their parent. However, I no longer feel that I am owed or deserve better in life; nor do I feel that I deserve, or am owed, my children’s love or respect. Let me explain.

Today’s culture has instilled a mindset of entitlement here in the U.S. Advertisers are very adept at telling us what we deserve. We are taught that because of ______, we deserve _____.  You can fill in the blanks.  However, this is not true. As hard as it may be for you to hear this, no one is entitled to, or deserves, anything.

By way of example, I will use my relationship with my husband to show you how destructive this attitude can be.

My husband worked very hard for his employers. As a matter of fact, he worked on average about 70 hours per week, year in and year out, all our married lives. There were countless weeks where he exceeded that 70 hours and he continually brought his work home and let it interrupt “our time” together. He has always had a fantastic work ethic and has even instilled the same work ethic in our children.  This said, when he did have any amount of time with me at home, he felt he “deserved” to be catered to and waited on by me for whatever he wanted. He didn’t feel he needed to do any work at home.  After all, because he worked so hard at his job, he felt he was “entitled” to not fix things around the house or help me with anything at all!  He made me feel like a servant in my own home when he was off!   If I did not do what he wanted, then he would get angry at me and we would end up in a fight. He felt “entitled” to do nothing and be catered to.

While he was working, I was taking care of the kids, the pets, the house, the yard, the finances, the grocery shopping, kids activities, church responsibilities, etc. My days were just as full as his with stuff to get done every day – and night, if the kids were sick! He expected me to work a minimum of 8 hrs a day every day and if I didn’t, he would get angry.  I felt I deserved and was “entitled” to be treated better than a hired servant and, I felt I deserved to have more of his time too!

While my husband was “expecting” certain things from me, I was “expecting” certain things from him. When either of us did not get what we expected, it caused us to get angry and argue. This “I deserve and am entitled to” attitude was further exacerbated by the teachings of the churches we served in. The women were degraded to nothing more than servants to their husbands and the men ate it up! They felt entitled to a sex slave, a servant, a cook, a housekeeper, a bookkeeper, a teacher to the kids, and so much more! This led to lots of arguments, it led to abuses. Eventually, it almost led us to divorce! Because we both felt we were “entitled” to be treated a certain way, we would get angry when we weren’t.

As a result, our marriage began to crumble.  When our marriage began to fall apart and my husband realized he was about to lose me, he had a change of heart and attitude. My husband suddenly realized that he did not “deserve” anything from me! He stopped taking me for granted and began to treat me with genuine love and compassion without expecting anything in return. Did he “want” my love and companionship? Yes. But he was no longer demanding it!  He would tell me, “Honey, I love you so much. I don’t deserve your love, or you. But if you choose to love me, I will be the happiest man alive.” His change in attitude and actions toward me opened my eyes to my expectations of him and helped me to see that I needed to eliminate any expectations in my mind!

As a result of letting go of what we each felt “we deserved,” our relationship developed into a respectful, caring and loving relationship that transcended anything we had ever experienced before in our marriage.

The “we want” mentality, instead of “I demand,” led to each of us appreciating the little and big things that each of us did for each other on a daily basis. When you expect and don’t get, it causes anger and resentment; or worse, bitterness! When you want something and don’t get it, it just causes disappointment. Disappointment is much easier to deal with than anger and bitterness! My husband does not “owe” me his love. Do I want his love? Yes. Because I want his love, I treat him with loving care and do not get angry because he works all the time. I also go out of my way to please him and he does the same for me.  Because he wants my love, he doesn’t expect me to wait on him like a servant and instead, pitches in on his off days to do what I need help with and, even give me a break!  It’s okay to want things, but we have no right to demand, expect, or feel entitled to anything. It’s okay to want better; but it’s not right to feel entitled to better.  Am I making sense here? The difference in attitude is a huge difference! It determines how we act and react toward others.

When we feel “entitled,” we do not appreciate what we have and, we become angry, resentful, and bitter toward others when they do not meet our expectations of what we think we deserve. It also causes us to take for granted what we do have and what we do have then becomes not good enough.  When we want something, and do not get it, we are simply disappointed and move on to something else.

We are not entitled to anything. Entitlement produces anger, resentment and bitterness. It is a kiss of death to a relationship. If you want a sure path to destruction, just believe you are entitled to something. Entitlement thinking will cause people to neglect the emotional and physcial needs of others while focusing entirely on themselves and their wants and needs.  This is selfishness personified!  The sooner we let go of this mentality, the sooner life becomes new and relationships blossom.

The Most Ignored Commandment

Lev19_15The Most Ignored Commandment

“in justice shall you judge your fellow man” (Lev. 19:15 – Heb) Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour. (Lev. 19:15- KJV) You must do no injustice in a case, neither showing partiality to the poor nor deferring to the powerful, but judging your fellow fairly (Lev. 19:15 – AAT)

Many read this commandment and automatically assume it only applies to magistrates. In making this assumption, people fail to realize this commandment requires everyone to be fair in their judgment of others. There is no room for prejudice within the scope of this command. Everyone, no matter their economic status, their educational background, their sex, or their religion, must be treated equally and fairly. In today’s society, such a thing as fair treatment has been lost in the attempt for control, power, or revenge.

In order to be fair, we are not allowed to listen to the side of one person without the other person being present. It is wrong to talk about someone to people and make them look bad when they are not there to defend themselves.

“You shall not go about spreading slander among your kinsmen; nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake . . . (Lev. 19:16 – NAB) “Don’t gossip. Don’t falsely accuse your neighbor of some crime . . . (Lev. 19:16 – Tay) “Do not whisper calumnies in the public ear, and swear away thy neighbor’s life . . . (Lev. 19:16 Knox)

We are also not allowed to judge a person based on the one-sided information. Sadly, most people today, ignore this command regarding justice. Instead, what we find are countless individuals who are harsh and unfair. While this is true in all of society, I have found this especially true among God’s people and this should not be so. Let me explain.

There are many of God’s people (doesn’t matter the religious affiliation) who have a higher regard for their own character than of those they judge. Let that statement sink in for a moment. Not only do people regard their own character above others, but many also believe religiosity determines character.  Religiosity does not establish character! Yet, religious people have a belief that the non-religious lack character and/or ethics.  This is very sad.

Also, many religious people judge themselves based on their good intentions and others by their actions. For example, if we don’t visit a friend or relative in the hospital, we usually rationalize in our mind that it’s okay. After all, I “wanted to go visit them, but didn’t have the time.” My intentions were good! Yet, when we are in the hospital and others don’t visit us, we don’t spend the time rationalizing excuses for the non-visitors. Instead, we judge them by their actions and become offended because they did not take the time to visit us.

Many people also judge themselves by their intentions when their actions are bad. If they are being rude, callous, hateful, condescending, hurtful, etc., they rationalize in their mind that their behavior is justified because they are doing so in righteous anger on God’s behalf toward the offending soul. Hurting and/or judging others because they don’t believe or act like you is wrong. Hurting others because they sin differently than you is also wrong. Just because your intentions are good, does not justify unethical treatment and bad attitude toward others.

Have you ever been wronged by a person who saw nothing hurtful about their attitude or behavior toward you? I have – too many times to count. And, sadly, I have dished out the same and rationalized in my mind the deplorable attitude I meted out. Oh, how I wish I could go back and retract my words!

When I was in the fundamentalist Baptist religion, we were taught by example how to mete out judgment and condemnation to the point that we even dished it out upon those who were dealing with tragedy in their lives. Why would we do such a thing? Because we were taught, for non-believers, that tragedy was God’s hand of judgment for sin in their life. This belief affected our thoughts and behaviors toward that individual and caused us to judge them unfairly. I say this with much sadness. We condemned and judged those who did not believe or act as we did while being compassionate and understanding toward those who DID believe and act as we did. We had a double standard! The same tragedy on an unbeliever was dealt with differently than that of a believer! Thus, we stood guilty of breaking God’s commandments.   And to top it off, we had no facts to base our assumptions on, only the “word” of our religious leaders. Sadly, this realization brings me much sorrow as I reflect on the negative talk many of my preachers said about so many good people. As a result of this gossip, these precious people were shunned and the attitudes of the rest of their church family toward them inflicted much hurt. To the hurting, this is secondary abuse and many do not realize it.

How sad when we hurt the people we love most and rationalize our behavior; and, when we are confronted by our harsh treatment, we make excuses. What is even sadder is when we hurt the already hurting by violating this commandment; even worse, is when we do psychological and bodily harm to those we judge because they act or believe differently than we do! We are quick to judge, we are quick to reach a negative conclusion about others, and we are quick to condemn.

It only takes one negative action on the part of a good person and we rush to crush them. Wow. Have we deteriorated to such an extent in our humanity that we rush so quickly to condemnation? Where is the compassion and love that causes us to be longsuffering toward others? If we truly followed God’s command to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” we would not be passing judgment on others so quickly. Instead, we would be seeking out excuses for their behavior in the same way we do for ourselves. In doing so, it would cause us to be more compassionate, longsuffering, and forgiving.

If we are not in a position to know both sides and the facts of a situation involving two people, don’t make a judgment about either!  NEVER believe someone else’s negative words aimed at discrediting another! In most instances, guaranteed, they will be slanted to the accuser’s agenda! ALWAYS stand back and wait if you are not privy to the side of both parties and the facts!  To believe a one-sided view, will cause us to automatically gravitate to a hostile standpoint. Once our mind becomes hostile toward and individual, there is nothing too cruel that they deserve and we will gladly dish out that cruelty. It breaks my heart to see God’s people dishing out cruelty in his name.

Of course there are instances where we will find ulterior motives too. While many may be subtle, still there are others that are hard to ignore. For example, there are religious organizations and people that provide aid or benefits to the less fortunate in order to build a following or recruit members. An example of this would be a church bus route that uses candy and prizes to entice children to church in order to get to the parents. The ultimate goal is to get the parents as members so they can give money to the church. Some organizations also provide aid in order to sexually exploit women and children. In these instances, we should not judge favorably until restitution is made to the victims. There are even some that extend aid to the less fortunate for murder. An example of this would be terrorist organizations. Hamas provides clothing, food, and other forms of aid to the poor in order to gain a following that will enable them to recruit suicide bombers. These suicide bombers are used to hurt and murder those whom Hamas hates.  Also, beware of those individuals that extend to you their aid and then call in the ‘favor’ later.

We should never condemn a person based on hearsay. We should always check out both sides of the matter before assuming the worst about a person or attacking them. To do otherwise is not only foolish, it is unethical and, makes you complicit in the sin! “You shall not nurse hatred against your brother. You shall reprove your fellow-countryman frankly and so you will have no share in his guilt (Lev. 19:17 – NEB) Beware of those who gossip! Don’t believe what you hear! Always give the other person the benefit of the doubt until you have both sides of a story as well as the facts. I cannot express how often I hear bad things about good people. I cannot express adequately the pain this brings me.  I remember one time where I was discarded as a friend because I refused to believe what I was told about another friend of mine and continued friendship with the accused.  I had both sides of the story and the facts showed the accusation against this person to be false.  Sadly, this is the risk we take for judging fairly by those who do not. We may lose friends.

I have made a choice that I intend to live by. I will not believe gossip and slander. I will patiently wait and assess the facts for myself and make a decision based on those facts. Sadly, many don’t understand why I do this and criticize me because of it.  What I have found is that in almost every instance to date, with a little patience and some digging, I was told wrong information with the intent to create animosity or, the accuser made big assumptions based on someone else’s opinion! In other instances, it was a matter of a poor decision that hurt others and the individual was literally crucified for it, even after apologizing and making restitution for the mistake made. When gossip is believed, it can incite people to violence against the victim. I have witnessed this first hand with many religious abuse survivors. Usually, when this has happened, the gossip was being spread in order to silence truth. This incitement breaks another commandment: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18 – KJV).

This leads me to another area of concern – that of passing on negative or defamatory information to those who don’t need to know it. Usually, this is done to destroy a person’s character so that no one will believe what they have to say. Many institutions utilize character assassination in order to silence truth; especially if the truth exposes their wrongdoings. Those who judge others unfairly and spread gossip, commit a far greater sin than the wrong for which they are condemning in someone else. Usually, the religious, will disguise their slander and gossip under the mantle of “pray for so-and-so because . . .” Beware of those people who do such things. Don’t believe what they say!

“If you do not judge others fairly, how can you be judged fairly in your time of need? The Talmud promises a divine reward to those who judge in a merciful manner: “He who judges his fellow man favorably is himself judged favorably [by God]” (Shabbat 127b). On the other hand, those who judge harshly will be judged similarly: “In the measure with which a man measures, so is he measured” (Sotah 8b)” [A Code of Jewish Ethics]. We must be careful about passing judgment on others because, in reality, it will really be ourselves we may be judging.

Since the Bible teaches that “There is no person on earth so righteous, who will do only good and not sin” (Ecclesiastes 7:20), we should not set standards for others that neither they nor we can meet. All of us occasionally stray off path. It would be wrong to attack, label, gossip or shun such a one because of a sin committed (unless it’s a wrong of huge proportions or is a deliberate attempt at destroying another), or because they have done something we don’t like.  Usually, in this category of sins of ‘huge proportion,’  would fall rape, murder, slander, sexual assault, physical assault and those attempts at destroying the life and liveliness of others.  Any others I would assess less harshly.

In order to judge fairly, it often involves overlooking insignificant matters. On the other hand, if someone is repeatedly mistreating you, then it is probably a good idea to break ties with that individual. It is not a good idea to tell everyone you know about their behavior toward you. There may be a valid reason why this person treats you so unfairly. Just because they treat you this way does not automatically mean they will treat others the same way.  Also, if we are going to criticize flaws in others that we ourselves have, we should first acknowledge the flaws in ourselves so that we will be less harsh in our criticism.

What is best? To not judge at all. We should avoid having strong feelings and views on too many subjects. Those who are quick to condemn and judge usually believe that there is only one right way and one wrong way. They do not understand that there are many right ways and many wrong ways. How something is done is based on preference.  So before passing unfair judgment on others, or spreading that gossip about them, remember this: You are not as good as you think you are, and the world is not as bad as you think it is. Don’t judge others unfairly and don’t let other’s opinions influence you to judge unfairly no matter what position that person holds. Treat everyone with dignity, compassion, honesty, respect, and love.


Candidly Speaking

realitycheckaheadCandidly Speaking

For over 18 years, my life revolved around ‘serving God’ in a fundamentalist religious sect. I never dreamed or considered that it might be a cult. After all, who sets out to join a cult? Time and time again, my husband and I ignored the many ‘red flags of abuse’ to follow and please Christ. After all, pleasing God is the most important thing in life, right? We all want God’s hand of protection and blessing in our lives. We sincerely believed there was nothing more important than being ‘right with God.’ And of course, this is something that is hammered home in every sermon preached. But what does ‘being right with God’ mean? Think about it. If Jesus died to take away the sin of the WORLD, then we are all “right with God” through Christ — There is therefore now no condemnation. Christ is not the Savior of a few, but Savior of ALL. He said so himself. So what does “right with God” mean if Jesus already made us ‘right.’ This is a thought to be considered.

And, WHY do we need to be ‘right with God?’  We don’t have to be ‘right with God’ to go to heaven.  God does not require perfection to please him.  So, is it to gain his hand of protection and blessing?  And if this is the case, then who is it that determines our wrongness to the extent we need to ‘get right?’ Religion would have us to believe we are wrong with God because we are sinful. Does this mean our sins cause us to forfeit God’s hand of protection and blessing?  We all know unsaved people who are quite blessed.  Many of us were blessed BEFORE we believed. So this can’t be the reason.

I was taught by religion we were all born into sin and needed forgiveness of those sins.  Well of course religion would say that! But God says we, and our sins, were bought and paid for thousands of years ago and our sins are not held against us. Because of Christ, we are forgiven. So, how can we be wrong with God if our sins are no longer held against us from birth? And does God treat certain people differently based on this ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness?’ Is God partial? After all, some do teach he blesses those who are right with him and troubles those who are not.  If this was true, then God would be partial and He himself says he is not partial.  So who on this planet determines what makes us right or what makes us wrong with God? Who determines the rules and beliefs we need to adhere to in order to please him? Well, of course, religion does that, right?

But what does God say pleases him? Faith. That’s it plus nothing.

So, all we have to do to please God is believe and trust in Him? Yep.

God has already told us we are right with him through Christ but religion just wants to make double sure we are? Or, could it be that religion is out for itself? Could money, power, control, prestige, and sexual dominance be influencing religion? One certainly has to wonder this.

What many of us fail to understand is that we already have God’s hand of protection and blessing regardless of what we do. He rains trial and blessing on the just and the un-just the same way. He is not partial or biased. He is not prejudiced. He is no respecter of persons. He treats everyone as equal. He does not practice sexual discrimination. He does not practice ethnic discrimination. He does not practice religious discrimination. He only bases his decisions on one thing and one thing only – HIS UNCONDITIONAL LOVE toward us. God chooses love over everything else because God IS love. Love gives freely, shows compassion, edifies; is merciful, patient, longsuffering, kind and humble. God exercises all these things with us freely regardless of what we do. We just have to partake of the treasure of his love for ourselves to live in fullness. There is not one single sin that can separate us from the love of God – not one! The price for sin has been paid and the work for the salvation of the world is finished. Sadly, there are many who don’t believe his work is finished; or worse, that he really didn’t mean it when he says he died once, for ALL. Some even believe he did not pay the penalty for ALL sins and live their lives exercising their prejudice and animosity against those who commit  certains sins. They actually judge people who sin differently than they do, not realizing sin is sin and they are sinners too! There is none perfect, no not one.

Please notice that I said “salvation of the world” and not salvation of those who believe. Christ died for all sin and all sinners. There are no exceptions. He is the savior of all and “especially of those that believe.” He didn’t say he is only the savior of those who believe! Non-belief does not null and void this free gift to ALL. It is a gift to all and we must remember that. EVERY knee shall bow and EVERY tongue shall confess Jesus as Lord (This happens AFTER physical death.).  Religion would have us believe we need to accept the free gift – that this gift is not yours unless you accept it here and now. Here we go again putting conditions on God’s UNCONDITIONAL and all-inclusive love!  Religion teaches it cannot be accepted after death, the teaching of which, is nowhere stated in scripture – interesting.  Isn’t it amazing how man continually wants to limit God?  By teaching this, religion is effectively saying salvation is exclusive. Really? What part of “all” does religion not understand, I wonder? God’s gift is ALL-inclusive while man’s teaching about him and his gift is exclusive.

The reality is that Jesus died whether we like it or not to pay our sin debt whether we believe it or not. Jesus died for my sin before I ever heard of him. I was already a child of his before I knew him and before I believed he was the Savior. But religion will argue this point, of course.

Religion also wants me to believe in hell so strongly that it instills fear and ascribes to God a merciless character trait. Religion wants me to believe God is cruel, heartless, torturous, vengeful and full of uncontrollable wrath – all of this disquised by the term ‘Justice.’  hmmm…  I believe Hell is a masterful tool used to manipulate and control others through fear (Read my book on this topic.).

Religion also hates those who oppose its doctrines and rules. It will slander and harass you until you concede and conform to its beliefs. If you don’t concede, it will hurt you and incite its members to violence against you. Sadly, some religions will even try to murder you if you don’t come around to their way of thinking and believing. Ever heard of “convert or die?” It’s taking place right now with ISIS and, it took place during the Reformation and Inquisition.

Religion would also have us believe its particular BRAND of Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Islam, Buddhist, must be followed to enjoy God’s hand of blessing. Religion teaches us to adhere to its many rules and restrictions. Religion proliferates and teaches inequality. Religion teaches us we can never be good enough in God’s eyes because we are just that sinful. Religion is biased. Religion is prejudiced. Religion propagates hate and harm toward those who disagree or live differently. Religion is racist. Religion is a separatist. Religion corrupts scripture. Religion is a murderer. Religion is abusive. Religion dehumanizes. Religion divides. Religion slanders. Religion is operated and controlled by human beings for personal gain, not God.  Religion is not patient, compassionate, merciful, or kind unless you are a part of its MEMBERSHIP; and even then, you may not be extended these things!

Religion teaches people how to exercise CONDITIONAL love. Therefore, multitudes do not truly know God even though they spend their lives trying to serve him with all they have. Let that sink in for a moment. To only love those who love and believe as you do is conditional love. That’s not God. While we were yet sinners Christ died. While we were sinners, he loved us. Religion is responsible for so many evil attitudes, behaviors and beliefs! Remember that more people have been murdered, tortured, maimed and killed because of religion than in war. Look at what is taking place in Syria and Iraq! RELIGION is the reason these men are raping and murdering women, crucifying the men, and beheading and starving the children! God has no part in that, yet they are doing it in the name of God and their religion. These terrorists are taught that human beings who are not of their BRAND are worthless and worthy of sexual abuse, torture and murder (dehumanization)?  Really?  I would not want to associate with a God who condones such things. I would not want to spend eternity in the presence of such an EVIL entity. Would you? Think about it? If you have to commit atrocities in his name and harm others to please him, why would anyone want to associate with Him or you? We have to remind ourselves that God is no respecter of persons. God is no respecter of religion. God does not care what BRAND you are because he loves you unconditionally.  BUT, religion IS a respecter of persons, brand, and religious affiliation. RELIGION wants you to believe that God is a hating, murderous, vindictive entity that will ‘get you’ if you don’t follow religion’s rules, beliefs, dogmas, precepts and commands;  or, if you don’t convert to their BRAND.

What we fail to consider is that religion is man-made. It is not God made.  When Jesus walked the earth, were there Catholics? Were there Methodists? Were there Baptists? Were there Pentecostals? Were there Mormons?  Religion is a tool used by people to control others and to extract personal gain. If you don’t think it is, think again! Religion wants to dictate your life.  For example: There is nothing wrong with meeting together to worship. There is everything wrong in telling people WHEN and HOW they can worship. Religion has everyone successfully brainwashed into believing they can only worship God in religious buildings. Religion teaches that unless you go to church, you are not a good Christian. Your character is determined by whether or not you attend a church or other religious building? What rubbish! God says no such thing! I would suggest you read my book, Religion’s Cell: Doctrines of the Church that Lead to Bondage and Abuse, on this issue. It is man’s teaching that you must attend an actual church building to be considered a good Christian, not God’s. Church buildings allow men an avenue to gather people together in one place in order to control them for personal gain. We really don’t need church to have a relationship with God. We don’t need over-seers to have a relationship with God, either. The God I now know has a personal one-on-one relationship with me. We have each other’s full attention and affections without any distractions or interferences from others or religion.  God will show me what he wants me to see. He will teach me what he wants me to learn. God doesn’t need men to teach me anything!  He is fully capable of taking care of his own.  Think about this.   Religion has spent the majority of my life interfering with my relationship with God and preventing me from doing what God wanted me to do! Religion used abusive and deceitful tactics to deceive me into believing I needed to do what IT wanted me to do in order to be ‘right’ with God – all at the cost of my family!

Because society as a whole naturally trusts religion to be honest, helpful, and fulfilling, we allow ourselves to get sucked into some very abusive situations. This is especially true with religion because we walk right into the abuse trusting those who have leadership over us. As a result, countless multitudes are walking themselves right into abuses they never bargained for. Abusive religions instill in us that we are NOT worthy, that our faith is NOT good enough, that we DESERVE hell, that we can NEVER be pleasing to God because we can never live up to the standard set by religion and its leaders. And because our faith is not good enough, we are not good enough. Religion will gladly make up rules in order to help us be good enough while it reaps the gain.

The degradation, the labeling, the shunning, the psychological games all aimed at innocent people in order to force conformity to religion and its rules, is astounding. These psychological games are some of the most destructive instruments religion uses to gain control over the masses. Using FEAR to force conformity is one of the most treasured weapons of choice of religious institutions. If you don’t believe this, then maybe you should take a look at the history of Islam and Christianity. These religions used, and still use, fear tactics (inlcuding murder) to prevent anyone from going against them. It works very well, I would say.

The truth is that other religions use fear the same way! As a result, these fears do some major damage emotionally and spiritually to vulnerable, unsuspecting people. There is an ever increasing number of people who have become fed up with being abused and are walking not only away from religion, but God. They have had enough! They are broken, bruised, slandered, hated, despised, and ill-treated because they have decided to break the yoke of bondage to the religion and its leaders who continue to destroy them and their families. Good news, though! Though they walk away, God STILL loves them and will be compassionate and merciful to them. He will continue to BLESS them!  He will wait patiently for their return as he continues to guide their lives.  Religion wants us to believe otherwise! Shame on religion!

Marriages are being destroyed and families are being divided due to religious belief all over the world. Women and children are being physically and sexually abused due to the teachings of some of these religions. The atrocities committed by religious zealots are innumerable and the reality regarding these atrocities is at the forefront of news media all over the world right at this very moment. The world sits in shock as ISIS slaughters thousands of innocent people who refuse to convert to their brand of Islam. Sadly, man-made religions can produce some pretty mean, controlling, and merciless people. The tentacle of destruction these mean-spirited, controlling people inject into our life is shocking, destructive, and far reaching. The religious attitudes alone that degrade women and children have birthed a full generation of mysoginistic men, pedophiles, and sexual deviants. It has created cold and heartless women and men. The fruit of this mindset across the world is sex trafficking, pornography, rape, physical violence, murder and victim blaming.

Using religion to control and manipulate people has to be the most effective, yet destructive, invention of man ever created. Using religion to instill in people they are not good enough for God is tragic! Yet, this is happening everywhere. Religion tells you that if you do not do what it says,  you are not good enough or worthy enough for God’s love and, you DESERVE Hell.

Religion and its followers use God and his name to force others to conform to THEIR will, wants, and desires, not God’s. To the abused, God is abusive and God’s people are controlling and abusive. Abusive religions destroy self-esteem and self-confidence. Many of them devalue women and children making them feel worthless and setting them up for abuse (dehumanization). They instill in you that you are not worthy of God’s love, you are only worthy of going to hell. And if you are not worthy of God’s love, how can you be worthy of anyone elses love?  You are not allowed to have friends outside the sect you serve and you certainly cannot fellowship with ‘the world.’ The isolationism abusive religions teach is not only for maintaining control, it is used as a means to punish those who stray outside of their rules and precepts.

Religion is very good at telling people what to do. It has had thousands of years of practice in learning how to manipulate people and scripture. I give religion an A+ in these areas. Religion is the master of deception and deceit. The façade it wears is beautiful and magnificent.  However, that façade is a lie. The sooner we realize this, the better.

Don’t believe religion! Study to show yourself approved unto God. Follow Him, not man. When we get religion out of our lives, our true CHARACTER reveals itself. Religion has become a mask for poor character, evil, hatred, envy, strife, murder, sexual abuse and more. Take it off! Draw close to God and he will draw close to you. Let God help you fix yourself while enjoying a truly intimate and loving relationship with him. He will treat you better than religion and its followers ever will! Your failures and imperfections don’t bother him at all! He doesn’t expect you to be anything but yourself with him. How refreshing! Because of Christ you are “right with God.” Your sins are remembered no more. Stop beating yourself up and stop using Religion’s MEASURING STICK to determine how good or bad your relationship with God is. God is ready and waiting for an awesome relationship with with you if you will get the interference out from between you and him – RELIGION.

Healing and Recovery Series – Step Three

Today I would like to talk about another step that religious abuse survivors can take in the healing and recovery process. If you have not read Step One or Two in this series, I would encourage you to do so Here and Here.

As a religious abuse survivor, one of the most helpful steps that I took in the healing process was to sign up for Facebook and get involved in one of the groups for Cult / religious abuse Survivors. At the time, I had no idea that a social media group would be so beneficial to me in my healing process. The very first group I joined was a small group of a little over 300 people called Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) Cult Survivors (and their supporters).  When I joined this group, I was still hurting and scared. I was nearing the end of my two years of isolation and my depression seemed to be letting up somewhat.  So, I decided to step out and take a chance to see what I would find.

One day I was watching 20/20 on television and saw a story about a young girl named Tina Anderson. She was a victim of child rape from the same religious sect that I had just left. In the news story, they also interviewed another victim named Jocelyn Zeichterman.  Jocelyn had a group on Facebook for abuse survivors of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church. As soon as they gave the name of the Facebook page, I found it and joined. Within  just a few weeks after the episode on 20/20 aired, the group grew to over 2000 members.

This particular group was instrumental in the healing and deprogramming process for me and my oldest sons. We all joined this group and upon doing so, realized there were others that we personally knew that were in it as well. Together, we all found healing through fellowship and telling our stories to each other.

STEP #3: Get Involved in Cult Survivor Groups and Pages on Facebook.
Join Forums, Subscribe to Blogs.

Associating with other religious abuse survivors allows you to fellowship with those who have gone through what you have gone through. There is a common bond; an understanding. Just realizing that you are not alone in your pain and suffering is like salve to your soul. You will make new friends in these groups as well – friends that will encourage you in your journey out of religious bondage. They will support you and lift you up when you feel you can’t go another day.

I caution you though. These groups have all walks of faith in them. Many of these victims of abuse are angry and hurting too.  They are all in different stages of the deprogramming and healing process. They all express themselves differently. Be aware of this and don’t allow yourself to get offended easily. Understand that these are hurting and broken people too. These groups are not a place to bring your cult mentality into. They are also not a place to proselytize. These groups are based on acceptance and love for everyone. I encourage you to join as many as you can, and watch and listen. You don’t have to post in them, but listen and quietly take in what many say. You will know when the time is right for you to speak up. In the beginning though, just ABSORB. Here are a few groups, websites, and pages to get you started.

Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) Cult Survivors (and their supporters) – Facebook group
Do Right Hyles Anderson – Facebook group
Do Right First Baptist Church of Hammond – Facebook group
Independent Fundamental Cult Abuse Surviving – Facebook group
Survivors of Abuse in Fundamentalism – Facebook group
Care – Facebook group
Together We Heal – Facebook group
Religion’s Cell – Facebook page – website – website – website – website

Ask around in these groups for other groups, websites and blogs to visit. There are so many, it is impossible to list them all. Many of the survivors in these groups have some fantastic blogs and have written some really awesome books that will help you to recover and heal!  Don’t limit yourself with just one group. By all means, branch out and become part of many. Like me, you will eventually just narrow it down to the ones that meet the emotional needs that you have.

Associating with others that understand what you are going through is great medicine to the wounded soul that is struggling. This step in the deprogramming and healing process is one that can be used for as little or as long as you need it in order to recover. For me, this step rescued me from the absolute and total fear of people the cult mentality instilled in me.  Go ahead and give this step a try. After all, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing so.

Healing and Recovery Series – Step Two

reading picRecovery from religious abuse can be a long and arduous process. It takes conscious effort and positive, decisive actions to undo the damage from such abuse. Many are at a loss when it comes to knowing what to do. They extract themselves and their families from an abusive religious environment and then struggle under the emotional load and strained relationships. Still, there are others that are struggling with chemical dependency as a result of some of the abuses they have endured.

In step one I talked about how important it is to first “accept the truth and take responsibility.” Denial of truth and responsibility will never lead to full recovery. I also talked about the importance of professional counseling in the recovery process. Professional counselors will always be highly recommended for all stages of healing and recovery.   Together We Heal is one such organization that I recommend often to survivors of childhood sexual assault. Together We Heal offers free counseling services to those who cannot afford to pay for a professional counselor.

I also emphasized in Step One that these are steps and thought processes that my husband and I used. While they worked for me and my family, they may not work for you. Everyone’s situation is different. Please keep this in mind as I let you inside my personal “bubble” again for this next step. Also, remember that the steps I give can be done in any order best for you and your situation. You can even combine some of them. You decide what you feel is best for you!

There are countless religious abuse survivors out there who have shared their testimonies, written books, and hosted blogs in order to help other survivors to cope, deprogram, find aid, locate professional help, recover, and heal. In order for any of us religious abuse survivors to live the remainder of our lives with any semblance of peace and happiness, it is imperative that we deprogram our minds and reprogram them. This is why my second step in the deprogramming process is to READ.


I cannot emphasize the importance of this step! Do NOT leave this step out. As cult survivors we MUST deprogram ourselves. If you want to deprogram faster and with less pain, READ!


I delved into books on early church history and Jewish Biblical Literacy. I wanted to find out if all the religious dogma, beliefs, and rules I was taught were true.  Did Jewish teaching and biblical history line up with the dogmas and beliefs I was taught?  Did the Jews degrade and oppress women like Christians do? Did Jewish Scholars interpret and translate Old Testament passages the same way as our English translation? What about New Testament passages? I had so many questions!

I bought and read all Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s books. I downloaded all copies of the Bible from the 1500s and 1600s and many of the Apocryphal books that are available. I read and compared these. I bought almost all of Bart D Erhman’s books and read them. I delved into Greek and Hebrew scholar’s works from the 16th – 18th centuries – Backhouse, Heeshon, Thayer, Jukes, Bushnell, etc. I visited countless blogs and websites to read and learn. I googled everything I had ever been taught. I bought and downloaded countless resources and articles. From all these sources I took notes. I filled countless notebooks so I could have all the “important” stuff in one place. What I found was that many of the doctrines Christianity taught me as “truth,” were LIES. These were not small lies either! The lies had long term and abusive consequences for women and children.  As you study, you will discover what’s been twisted too; especially if you read the works of Bushnell, Thayer, Backhouse, Telushkin, or Erhman.

Learning new truths through the experiences and expertise of others along with documented history, was key in helping me to change my perception instilled by the cult religion I had been a part of for many years. Many of the articles on my blog were birthed because of learning new truths that debunked the lies I had believed all my life. As I read, I came across information that in my heart I was not ready to accept. I warn you ahead of time that this does not mean it is not true. It meant I was not ready for it yet. Some truths needed me to grow a little bit more before I could accept them. The ones that were not true, I figured out along the way.  I Just set the stuff I was slightly ‘choking’ on aside and kept on reading. Please understand that not everything we read and learn will be used right away in the healing process. We may have to go back to it later.

In order to change my perception of myself, I had to get educated. I had to find “truth.” As I read and learned and grew in knowledge, I began to change. The twisted scriptures I was taught to believe by religious leaders that were abusive, began to stand out with glaring reality. The evidences I discovered gave me fact-based information to re-establish new beliefs and foundations. As the change began to take place, I realized that I had been poisoned by religious bias and sexual bias!  This is when I began to systematically extract all this “poison.”  As truth entered, the toxic waste began to erupt out . . . like vomit. I found myself angry. However, I did not give “public” place to this anger. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to express it in bits and pieces to vent it. However, “vomiting” out my anger in front of others could have caused hurt to other survivors who were in different phases of growth and healing.

So, I waited and continued learning and writing. Writing down my thoughts was so therapeutic and helpful! If you can keep a journal, I highly recommend doing so during this stage. After the anger subsided, I was left with a feeling of loss. I cried for weeks over the fact I had been deceived and had wasted almost 20 years of my life for nothing. What did I have to show for it? Nothing. My foundations the church helped me build upon the opnions of men and lies, crumbled completely. The next phase was uncertainty. I felt “undone.” If I was taught to believe lies, what am I to believe now? How do I rebuild new foundations? As I continued to read, however, the anger dissipated and gave away to new understanding and perception; not only of myself, but others. It also automatically began rebuilding my new foundations of faith; except this time, my faith was not “blind.” It was now based on evidence uncovered through my research. There is nothing wrong with having a foundation of beliefs built upon facts while exercising faith in the most important area of all – the savior. Faith in the Savior is all that is required; not faith in the church, religious leaders, rules, dogmas, or theologies. Faith in the Savior that he is sufficient to keep that which I have committed to him is all that is necessary.

Perception is everything to a religious abuse survivor because perception is “fact” in our mind. Changing my perception, changed how I viewed the facts that I uncovered. It also enabled me to accept the facts and change accordingly based on them. This is why reading was vital for me. I had to change my negative perception of myself and the world around me by analyzing the evidence of truth I discovered. I was taught that I was worthless and the cause of evil in my life. I was taught to fear the government, child protective services, public schools, law enforcement, other religions, and ‘worldly’ people. I was taught to fear drinking, wearing pants, going swimming, going to the movies, and a whole host of other ridiculous things. I was taught God would kill me, my children, or some other family member if I did any of these things!  I had to change that perspective or I would never come out of isolation! Yes, I isolated myself. I lived in such fear of so many things that I could not even go to the grocery store alone. I was afraid God would kill me or send someone else to because I was no longer in the “church.” I believe “fear” is the hardest of all things to overcome.

My fears caused depression, kept me isolated, induced panic attacks, kept me from making new friends. To this day, I still find it difficult to make new friends; not because I can’t, but because I do not trust. Trust issues will probably follow me for the rest of my life. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but, it can sometimes prevent me from enjoying others’ friendships and fellowship. There is more to life than we were taught in the cult, and fear can often keep me from enjoying life like God intended. Education and action overcomes most fears. I have been taking action and doing what I have been afraid to do. Now, I am in a much better place than I have ever been in my life. Life has joy. My relationships with my family are the best they have ever been. Life is FUN.

Am I fully recovered? Not yet. I continue reading and learning. For me this is something I will do for the rest of my life. I never want to find myself in the place of bondage to a religious institution and its leaders ever again. I never want to find myself in a place of manipulation, control and oppression ever again. And to top it off, I never want to lack the appropriate knowledge to be able to see through religious lies, men’s opinions, and false teachings! I am like a sponge, I absorb the knowledge and do my best to use it wisely for the benefit of others.

Here are some recommended books for those who don’t know where to start:

  • The Origin and History of the Doctrine of Eternal Punishment – Thomas B. Thayer
  • God’s Word to Women – Katherine C. Bushnell
  • Religion’s Cell: Doctrines of the Church that Lead to Bondage and Abuse, by Cynthia McClaskey
  • The Truth About Tithing, by Cynthia McClaskey
  • Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen
  • Healing Spiritual Abuse: How to Break Free from Bad Church Experience, by Ken Blue
  • Toxic Faith, by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton
  • Combatting Cult Mind Control, by Steven Hassan
  • Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, by Steven Hassan
  • Misquoting Jesus, by Bart D Erhman
  • Jewish Biblical Literacy, by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
  • The LIES We Believe, by Dr. Chris Thurman
  • People of the Lie, by M. Scott Peck, M.D.

Get some education under your belt with some of these books mentioned and you will find release and freedom from the lies that have held you in bondage to institutions, attitudes, behaviors and corrupted thinking. There are many more books, but these will at least get you started in deprogramming. This step could take many months. It’s okay to take your time on this step. There is a lot to digest and a lot of contemplation to be made. What you will find after reading a few of these is that your foundations built by the cult will crumble. You will feel like I did – undone, sad, angry, etc. You will feel a whole host of emotions because you will have realized many of the lies you believed. You will have also realized the destruction these lies brought to you and your family. This is all normal! In order to heal, we must let go of the old foundations built upon lies and rebuild new foundations based on truth.  Let’s get rid of the corrupted foundations. Let’s get through, and deal with, all the EMOTIONS that will ensue as these foundations are chiseled away and removed. We don’t want to try and build a new foundation over an old, corrupted one!

Let me remind you again that there are many religious abuse survivors that have written books. Don’t be afraid to read their books! Many of them are helpful and give amazing insights! These authors want to help others to recover and heal. They, too, want to help untwist the lies and corrupted domgas of religious teaching. On my blog I have a few of these authors, if you wish to check out their works. In the next step I will be giving more resources. These resources will enable you to come in contact with more religious abuse survivors that have authored books.

I hope this information is helpful to you as you embark on your road to recovery and healing from religious abuse. Please stay tuned for the next step I took in this journey to recovery and healing!

Healing and Recovery Series – Step One

wrongThe question below was sent to me recently through my Religion’s Cell Facebook page. It expresses so well what families are dealing with as a result of religious abuses in a cult-like church and Christian school:

I’m looking for some healing for kids who were treated as if they were worthless and a waste of space at their church’s school, at church, and then punished by their father when they got home if they didn’t obey the church’s and the church’s school’s rules every day of their growing up years. Rules set up by the cult leader — the pastor Jack Hyles. How do you tell the inside of you that you ARE worthy, that you ARE a good person, that you HAVE talents, that people DO like you, after a childhood of the above? — Joanne

In the quote above, we can see that this individual is hurting. Her children have suffered greatly due to the abusive teachings and control tactics of the church leader they served. She also wrote me a lengthy email in search of help for her daughter. In Joanne’s case, I connected her with Together We Heal, an organization that has professional counselors available at no cost to the victim.  I also told Joanne that in response to her plea, I would write a series on how our family recovered. In this series, I want to talk about the steps me and my husband took in order to heal our family, to deprogram, reprogram, rebuild foundations, and gain new perspectives.

Please understand that what I am about to share with you is MY thought processes and steps based on MY experiences. The steps in this series are what WE did. Everything I am about to say to you is to let you into our personal “bubble” and see what we did for ourselves and our children. Are these thought processes and steps the “right” way? They were for me and my family; but they may not be for you and yours.

Like, Joanne above, there are countless religious abuse survivors struggling to know what to do and how to overcome religious abuse. Religious abuses have destroyed innumerable people. That is why my blog and other blogs exist amongst religious abuse survivors – we want to help others to deprogram, heal, and know HOW to recover themselves.

It is my opinion that Abusive religions devalue people. They are masters at making men, women, and children feel worthless in order to control them. They are masters at instilling fear in order to control them. It is important we realize that sexual, physical, spiritual, and emotional abuses are being perpetrated in those religions where there is devaluation.  Again, any religion that devalues other human beings will be abusive toward those they devalue! It is important for everyone to realize this.

Also rampant is spiritual dependency and blindness. These things can cripple us and prevent us from thinking independently and rationally. They also lead to our control and manipulation. Spiritual blindness and dependency will cause good people to do and say bad things to other good people.  It will also cause us to turn a blind eye to abuse.

In order to heal, we must change. We must learn how to deprogram from the abusive behaviors and thought processes that some religions instill in us. We must also learn how to reprogram ourselves in order to recover.  Healing and recovery will bring you joy and freedom in a way that truly is remarkable.  More importantly, every change we make, every step we take, every action and reaction we exercise, must be rooted in humility and genuine, unconditional love for everyone involved – including self.  So let’s look at some of the things my husband and I did that helped us and our family to heal, grow, and recover. I would also like to say that the steps in this series can be done in any order that is best for your situation.

The first step I want to talk about in this series is a very important step. Sadly, we have countless adult  survivors that skip this step. They refuse to believe or acknowledge that raising children in a system of control and manipulation does any harm to them. They are deceiving themselves; and, when their children try to voice those feelings of hurt, they are being chastised, called liars, or ignored.  All systems of control and manipulation DO harm in some way emotionally and psychologically; and you won’t know how much harm until you extract yourself from it.  Many parents refuse to believe their children have been harmed by the way they have been treated by them and others within the system. So, here’s the first step I want to cover:


Too often, we find that some people are too proud to admit to themselves they were wrong. This can also be true when it comes to admitting to our children we were wrong. I know of parents who refuse to admit to themselves or their children they did anything wrong in raising them in a system that devalues them, controls them, and does not allow for them to be autonomous!  They refuse to take responsibility for the abuses they dished out to their children as a result of the religious teachings!  Some even refuse to believe the abuses their children suffered at the hands of religious leaders, along with their abusive attitudes and treatment of them, is abuse.  Furthermore, many refuse to believe the abuses they dish out to their spouses are abusive! Wow. Just because your religion sanctions the abuse, does not make it right at all. Just because your religion says it’s the right thing to do does not make it NOT abuse.

In order to recover, heal, and change, there is no place for ego or pride. When pride somehow manages to get in the way, all it does is stifle growth and create animosity. Sadly, many people will literally die for their religious and doctrinal beliefs rather than admit they are wrong in any area of them. Not only this, they will divide their family and destroy friendships because of them. Understand that religious beliefs and teachings are the ‘root’ of the problem and that you may have been lied to by the religious leaders and system you served. Understand that the teachings you accepted may have been abusive to you and your family and, you will never know just HOW abusive until you are WILLING to re-evaluate those teachings through an unbiased lens or, the lens of “questionable doubt.”

When a person is set in their pride, they refuse to believe the truth even if it is staring them right in the face. Realize that you are human and make mistakes. “To err is human.”  It’s okay to make mistakes! We all make them! Don’t let pride be the cause of the destruction of familial relationships because you are too proud to admit you were wrong or that your religion might be teaching abusive and twisted doctrines. Admit that you made a mistake in following the abusive dogmas and rules and don’t beat yourself up over it. Admit to yourself that your children may have been negatively impacted as a result of the religious teachings, rules, and standards.  Accept responsibility for the schisms with your famiy members. Then, forgive yourself and ask your children for their forgiveness. You will know by their reaction to your apology if they were impacted negatively. You will know by their reaction if they are harboring hurt, anger, and bitterness toward you because of it.


The first thing my husband and I did was to admit we were wrong.

  • We were wrong in how we were treating each other and responding to each other. We apologized to each other and made a commitment to change.
  • We were wrong in raising our children in a fundamentalist religion.
  • We were wrong in how we treated our children as a result of the teachings, rules, mindsets, and attitudes we were taught by the church leaders.
  • We admitted to ourselves the “root cause” of our relationship problem –  religious teaching was entirely responsible for the schism in the relationship between us, as husband and wife. It affected how we treated each other and responded to each other in given situations. So, we acknowledged to each other and ourselves that we were harmed and our thinking contaminated. We just didn’t know to what extent yet.
  • We admitted to ourselves that we were fully responsible for any schism in relationship between us and our children. They had no choice in being raised in a fundamentalist religion! Just as the teachings affected our response, attitudes, and behaviors, it probably affected theirs too.

Not only did we admit it to ourselves, we admitted it to our children. We went out and bought each of them flowers and a gift, sat them down, and with genuine tears of remorse, apologized for raising them the way we did. We apologized for OUR behavior over the years toward them. We PROMISED them we would change; promised them WE would get better; promised them WE would never go back to the way we were. We took full RESONSIBILITY for any hurt, anger or bitterness they might be holding against us. It was OUR fault, not theirs. We did NOT give excuses. We did NOT place blame on the religious teachings even though they were the root cause of the problem.  That day, we did an about face and completely changed. For the ones still at home, it was like culture shock, but in a good way.

I cannot tell you the tears that flowed between them and us when we did this. It was like releasing a pressure cooker lid for some of them. We realized for the first time in our lives that some of our children WERE carrying a huge load of hurt and bitterness toward us. We had no idea!  It was so heartbreaking and eye-opening at the same time.  Did all our children believe us when we said all these things? No. We had one that didn’t believe us right away.

Our oldest lived 1500 miles away when we did this. So, we did this with him when he came back to visit. He needed time to watch, listen, and evaluate whether or not we really did change; that we really meant what we said. He took our apology with a grain of salt.  It took almost three years for him to finally believe that we were not the same parents anymore.  While this was painful for my husband and me emotionally, we knew that it was something we had to accept. He didn’t live at home with us, so of course it would take longer for him to decide if we were for real or not. He wasn’t here to see our day to day living. We did not let this stop our growth. We continued to change and grow while he watched and tested.

Did he test us? Absolutely! He tried to push every button he knew of to get us to react like we used to. While we were changing and growing, he was trying to prove we hadn’t changed at all.  He baited us and accused us often to see how we would respond. Did we fall for it? Every now and again, Yes.  He had so much hurt and anger pent up against us that he needed time; and, he also needed to express that hurt. He vented his hurt and anger a number of times when he would visit us, or we, him. These are some of the most painful and heartbreaking memories of the recovery process because they pierced us and hurt us. Was it his fault? No. It was our fault. We accepted it. We continued to apologize. We worked through it. We never stopped loving him and continued to support him. Sometimes, we have to endure the pain for a while before we see the growth and change. We must remember that.   Today, we are so very proud of the man our son has become and the relationship we now have. We are also proud of our other children as well. All of them have continued to grow and now understand that humility and exercising unconditional love is the key to happiness and success, not religion and rules. They also understand fully that you can walk with God without religion around and that, sometimes, religion gets in the way of a genuine relationship with Him and each other.

It takes TIME and EFFORT to UNDO the brainwashing, instilled habits, and old beliefs. Did we eventually overcome and conquer the old ways? YES! Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

We had to keep in mind that our children would experience a wide array of emotions from the extraction we made from the abusive religion and its environment. It was vital, however, that we did not criticize, condemn, or place blame on them during their healing process. We, as parents, were responsible for raising them in a cult-like and abusive religion! We took responsibility for it. We decided to help them heal and recover by showing love, patient endurance and, by accepting responsibility. On the other hand, we didn’t beat ourselves up over it. Accepting responsibility does not mean we continue to beat ourselves over the head with negative self talk!  We have to find a balance. We had to learn not only to forgive others, but ourselves. No negative self talk allowed! We are all human. We all mess up! What’s most important is that you LEARN from your mistakes.

The younger children were so much more resilient than our young adult children when it came to forgiving and moving forward. Younger children want to make things right with their parents immediately, therefore they are more likely to forgive and move forward than young adults.

It was our older children that needed time and expression.  When they unloaded their feelings on us, we listened and sincerely apologized. We tried really hard to not fight back, argue, or place blame on them when they did this. We tried really hard to not give excuses for our behavior. We understood that this was not what they needed. They needed to release the hurt and anger.  They needed to know we understood their feelings and that their feelings were being validated by us. We had to realize their perception of us was their “truth” whether we believed it to be right or not. We accepted their truth! We let them know we were sorry every time they expressed it. Our children needed to know we believed them, supported them, and loved them. Most of all, they need to know we were genuinely sorry. Going through this was very painful for all of us.

Now, let me say something important here: Sometimes our children can really press our buttons and make it easy to fall back into self-protect mode where we find ourselves in a full blown argument. If you do, don’t let it derail you. Just work harder on not going to that place the next time you are confronted by them for things in their past that you did that hurt them.

I warn you ahead of time that your children will place blame on you. Accept it and apologize. Placing any blame back on them or anyone else, any excuses at all for your behavior, will shut them down and stunt their growth and recovery. You are dealing with their “truth.” It will be different from yours.  If we cannot as parents accept someone else’s truth without placing blame, giving excuses, or getting angry, then we will never have the fullness of relationship with our children. There will always be an underlying “seed of hurt and contention” that will continually rear its head.

Eventually, our children came to the realization that we were manipulated and controlled by the cult teachings; that those teachings affected them the way they did. At the point when this realization hit them, was the point we started seeing the most progress and change in our relationship with them. It’s one thing to come to this realization for yourself, but when your children finally grasp this truth, it is life and relationship changing!

On the flip side of this, let me say that you should not allow your adult children to continually heap abuse onto you. Use some wisdom here. If all they want to do is attack you repeatedly, and live in the past, back away from them. Set boundaries and do not allow them to cross them.  Discussion is okay, attacking is NOT okay. Distance yourself and allow them to find healing on their own while you work on your healing. Don’t allow their anger and bitterness to sabotage your progress. Fix yourself FIRST; then, you will be better able to help them and be what they need you to be in their healing process. Remember, sometimes just seeing the change in you from a distance can affect a positive change in them.

Let me say something important here.  Enlisting the aid of a professional can sometimes be the BEST avenue for recovery from religious abuse in all its forms (See my blog article, Religious Abuse – What Exactly Is It?). While I did not utilize this step, many others do and it has made all the difference in their recovery. Find a professional counselor, outside of the cult, that deals specifically with cult survivors and/or religious and sexual abuse survivors – especially if the child has been physically or sexually abused in any way! Do not take them to a church counselor, pastor, or other person who is connected with the religious sect you are escaping from!  Do not take them to a pastor or church counselor of a different religious sect! These are usually not licensed professionals who are trained in dealing with RELIGIOUS abuse in all its forms. You must enlist the help of a licensed professional who knows what they are doing. When a child has been abused by “religion,” the worst thing you can do is force them to be “counseled” by a religious leader. The harm done can be irreparable!

Also, let me say that sexual and physical abuses have lasting effects.  Don’t think that children can deal with them on their own, they can’t!  That is why chemical dependency is very high among survivors. Suicide rates are also high.  Don’t use the excuse you cannot afford it. There are many services out there that are free. Find them by searching on the internet! Your children are worth it. If we as parents can sacrifice for the things the church wanted us to do, we can sacrifice for our children to get them the help they need.

During all this, be very careful not to spew out all the religious poison you will be vomiting up, onto your children. Do, however, share new knowledge and truths with them along the way. I continue to share with my children what I learn and this makes for some very valuable discussions.  I often turn to my children for their input and advice. I treat them as the adults they are and as the individuals they are.

I hope this step that we used in healing and recovery is helpful. If you can go through this step and accept responsibility and truth, the journey to recovery will be much better. Stay tuned for the next step in this series where I will give specific sources to aid in the reprogramming and recovery process.

More LIES We are TAUGHT to Believe

  • lieswebelieve2“God cannot use me. My life is a mess.”
  • “God cannot use me. I am not good enough.”
  • “God cannot use me. I am not strong enough.”
  • “God cannot use me. I have been sexually assaulted.”
  • “God cannot use me. I have been sex trafficked.”
  • “God cannot use me. I am a victim of incest.”
  • “God cannot use me. I drink alcohol.”
  • “God cannot use me. I don’t go to church.”
  • “God cannot use me. My faith is too small.”
  • “God cannot use me. I suffer from mental illness.”
  • “God cannot use me. I am depressed.”
  • “God cannot use me. I have a chemical imbalance and have to take meds.”
  • “God cannot use me. I am too sinful.”
  • “God cannot use me. I suffer from panic attacks.”
  • “God cannot use me because. . . (You fill in the excuse.)

There are multitudes of people who believe they cannot be used of God because of their failures, shortcomings, sins, abuses, etc.  What’s worse is that many even believe God is angry at them because of these things and his wrath abides on them. May I say that God does not react to us the same way we react to each other?

From early on in one’s Christian development, church leaders instill in us that we need to live holy and separate from the world. They also place an unreasonable expectation on one’s own personal faith and standards.  We are expected to have a very strong trust and faith in God no matter what happens to us or our families.  If we waiver the slightest bit in that faith, then we are told we are sinning against God and he is angry with us. This is a LIE. May I remind everyone that Jesus did not tell Peter he was sinning when his faith waned and he began to sink into the water. He reached out to him instead and showed Peter love and compassion by pulling him back up. God will reach out to us too, in our time of need – when our faith is small. He won’t condemn or punish us. Wavering or small faith is not a sin! It opens the door for God to show how great and wonderful he is. Weaknesses are not sin, they are avenues for God to show himself mighty in our lives.

The religious tell us those who suffer from emotional and mental disorders lack faith in God;  they are told they are sinning against God. This is a LIE. It is one of the most damaging lies that can be told to someone suffering in this way. We must remember that God made the blind man blind so that his power could be manifested. Religion told him he was born blind because of sin. It was not the blind man’s faith that healed him. It had nothing to do with his faith or lack thereof. He was not blind because of sin. The blind man was born blind to manifest God’s power.  We must understand that God doesn’t rain judgment and wrath down upon the weak, weary, down-trodden, and broken. He extends love, compassion and grace. Don’t listen to religious leaders who tell you otherwise. If you suffer from emotional and mental disorders, it is an avenue for God to show himself in your life. It is not sin and God is not angry with you.

Because we fall short of religion’s standards, we are ridiculed, chastised, and looked down upon by those who believe their faith is stronger than ours. These holier-than-thou, self righteous people do everything in their power to instill guilt in us for not adhering to their set of rules and standards. Sadly, we are judged by our weaknesses instead of succored and extended love and grace to help us grow in spite of our weaknesses. Genuine Christian love is more interested in helping us GROW and MATURE than interested in forcing us to conform to religious rules and conditions. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is Long-suffering and gentle. Love is interested in benefiting others, not self. Love does not label, attack, slander, call names, or abuse, to force conformity. Genuine love, when extended to us, wants to encourage us, lift us up, gently teach us, and coax us along in order for that growth and maturity to happen.  Love will not give us an ultimatum – do as I say or God will punish you and we will too!

If we do not follow religion’s rules, dogmas and precepts during that growth:

  • We are shunned.
  • We are labeled (backsliders, rebellious, bad influences, worldly, haters, unsaved, and on and on. The labels placed on those who do not conform to religion’s rules are too numerous to list.)
  • We are told we are going to hell.
  • We are gossiped about.
  • We are harassed.
  • We are slandered.
  • We are guilted.
  • We are called names.
  • We are physically harmed (women and children)
  • We are the recipient of destructive mind games.
  • This list can go on and on.

Religion says to us that in order for God to truly use us in doing great things we must:

  • “Separate ourselves from the world.”
  • “We must not drink, smoke, or dance.”
  • “We cannot cuss.”
  • “We cannot wear certain clothing styles.”
  • “We must memorize scripture.”
  • “We must be chaste, monogamous, or celibate.”
  • “We cannot be divorced.”
  • “We must attend every church function.”
  • “We must serve in a ministry of the church.”
  • “We must give our life to God in service to the church.”
  • “We must give our money to God through the church.”
  • “We must go out and ‘win’ souls to Christ as a member of a church.”
  • “If we can’t win them, cut them off, or destroy them,”

The reality is this:  It is through our weaknesses God can show his power; through our imperfections God can be glorified. Through our sin, God can show us He is God. God uses flawed people to bring his purposes to fruition.  Don’t believe the lies you are told. We all can be used of God – saved and unsaved. For whatever reason, the religious do not believe this. They are looking at outward appearances (works), but God is looking at your heart and motives. Your character, motives, and how you treat others are more important to God than works of righteousness done for him.

When we admit to being weak, flawed and insufficient, it enables us to fully understand that it is not about US, it is all about God working through us to do great things. No matter our situation, no matter our religious affiliation, no matter our abuses suffered, it is all about God and what he can do through us.  It is not about the church. It is not about Christianity. It is not about denomination. When we treat others with the same compassion, acceptance, grace and love God has extended to us, we are being used whether we realize it or not; whether we have faith or not.

God accepts us where we are and works from there to help us grow toward Him. He is very long-suffering and patient toward us during the process. God extends to us his loving hand to guide us no matter how long the process takes. You see, God knows we will mess up. God knows we will make mistakes that will get us off track. But he is ever faithful to gently lead us along until we get back on track, mature, and become like Him – loving, kind, caring, patient, long-suffering, humble and gentle. This is true maturity.

Religious leaders expect us to change immediately and PROVE ourselves to THEM in order to receive their hand of blessing — God doesn’t. We do not have to prove anything to the religious crowd. There are countless multitudes who love their religion and church leaders above God. They want the church’s hand of blessing instead of God’s. As a result, they will follow the church’s rules and commands even if it means shunning, slandering, and spreading hate.

God loves us unconditionally. Let’s all remember that. There is not one single sin we can commit that will separate us from the love of God or his mercy. Every sin ever committed has been paid for. Our sins are remembered no more and God views us through the shed blood of Christ. Our goal in this life, according to God, is to walk humbly, to do justly, and extend to others the same things God has extended to us. In doing so, everyone can be used no matter their situation. We don’t need religiosity for God to use us. All we need is some good old fashioned character – loving-kindness, honesty, ethics, gentleness, humbleness and patience. When we extend these things unconditionally to others, we are mirroring God and God is pleased. By the way, you don’t have to be a ‘Christian’ to mirror God in this way. Anyone can do these things.

LIES I was TAUGHT to Believe


lieswebelieveThroughout my many years of religious indoctrination, I was taught to believe LIES that nearly destroyed me from the inside out. Unfortunately, I am not the only person to have believed these lies. Countless multitudes of believers across all denominations are taught to believe the very same lies. Believing these lies affected me in a huge way. Not only did it affect me, it also affected my family and it affected the way I interacted with others.

One of the areas I have had to really focus on in deprogramming from an abusive religious cult is my “instilled beliefs.”  It has taken a lot of reading, research, and self-examination in order to identify what is truth and what is lie.  Instilled beliefs are not God’s beliefs. They are not even your own beliefs! Instilled beliefs are beliefs we are TAUGHT.  These type of beliefs are dangerous. They are destructive. They only lead to a lack of compassion and genuine love and concern for others and SELF.

Religion is fraught with opinion. These opinions manage to make their way into interpretation. Interpretation is taught as truth and the affects of believing these interpretations are far reaching and destructive.  The many lies we believe as Christians will absolutely determine how we respond to others, how we treat ourselves, how much compassion we have, and how controlled we are with our emotions. Although I was taught to believe MANY lies as a Christian, these two LIES almost destroyed me. . .

LIE #1: Feeling or exhibiting negative emotions is a sin.

It shows a lack of trust and faith in God.

In the sect I came out of we were taught that negative experiences are a result of God’s punishment for sin (A LIE).  When these negative experiences came my way, I was taught to handle them with contentment, peace, and happiness. If I was treated with disrespect or hatefully, I was taught to not respond to it, accept it, and move on.  In doing so, it was supposed to show others that I had a complete and total trust and faith in God that he was in control and would take care of the situation.  At the same time, we were also taught that if we responded to those negative influences in a negative manner, we were exhibiting a lack of faith in God and were sinning. Other Christians had no problem attacking my lack of faith if I dared to voice my opinion, my frustrations, or grief; if I dared to show them with my countenance. Others had no problem attaching “labels” to me if I spoke up about being treated unfairly, disrespectfully, or abusively. I had many labels attached to me – rebellious and stubborn being the biggest two. To dare to disagree usually gained these labels and more. Time and time again I found myself shutting down and pushing how I felt aside, stuffing it all in and putting on a façade. I held years of anger, heartache, and frustrations inside to the point that it nearly destroyed me emotionally. It led to bitterness. It almost destroyed my relationships with family.  It led to depression. It almost led to suicide.

The truth is this:  God created each of us as EMOTIONAL beings. He gave us a broad range of emotions to feel. Not all of these emotions are peaceful or happy! However, you cannot stuff down emotions – even good emotions! You cannot contain excitement and you cannot contain hurt, anger, and grief. After all, we all know the negative outcome of holding in anger, grief, and anxiety.  We must also realize that exhibiting negative emotions is NOT sin. Standing up for yourself and what is right is NOT sin.  IT IS THE RIGHT AND HEALTHY THING TO DO.  It does not show a lack of trust or faith in God just as exhibiting good emotions does not show a complete trust or faith in Him.  This is a lie we have been taught to believe!  For instance, if I swerved to miss an on-coming car while driving down the road, my heart would probably beat loudly in my chest. Emotionally, I would feel many negative emotions! Does this mean I have a lack of faith in God? Of course not! When my best friend died of cancer, the sense of grief and loss was overwhelming. I literally found myself in a depression.  But no one knew I was depressed because, after the funeral, I held in my emotions and shoved them aside.  I had to put on a happy façade while the inner turmoil, grief, and sense of loss raged on the inside.  Did feeling these negative emotions mean that I was exhibiting a lack of trust or faith in God? Again, no! However, because I had been conditioned to hold in negative emotions up to this point, it led to negative self talk after she died that contributed to my depression. This negative self talk was the result of another LIE I was taught to believe.

LIE #2: I am not good enough!

Bad things happen to me and others because my faith is not good enough.

This self talk told me, “If you had prayed harder, God would have healed her.” “If you had trusted Him more, God would have healed her.” “Cynthia, if you had just had enough faith and believed fully, God could have healed her!” Angie’s death was all my fault because my faith just wasn’t strong enough!  As a result, because I did not pray enough and believe enough, my self-image took another nose dive for the umpteenth time. Yes, suppressing emotions is destructive in more ways than one. Every failure or bad outcome in my life I blamed myself for because I wasn’t good enough. Bad things happened to others I cared about BECAUSE I wasn’t good enough.

When negative or abusive circumstances come our way, it is healthy to experience a wide array of emotions. To hold them in and never express them can lead to uncontrolled anger, anxiety attacks, fears, mental illnesses, and depression later on.  As Christians, we are taught to suppress all our negative feelings. However, those feelings do not go away! They stay with us until such a time as they are ‘triggered’ and erupt like a volcano all over some unsuspecting person.  Not only this, but our bodies will deal with all those emotions if we don’t! This is why there are countless people suffering with physical, emotional, and mental disorders. They have held in and not dealt with the emotions that resulted from traumatic situations where they were told to “suck it up,” “forgive and forget,” or worse, “If you really gave it all to Him, you would not be depressed.” Holding in the hurt, the anguish, the anger, the resentment, and the anxieties can also lead to poor self-esteem, poor self-confidence, fears and phobias, depression, emotional disorders, behavioral disorders, and more!

Many church leaders across all denominations are teaching that if you are depressed, you are sinning and showing a lack of faith; if you are anxious or having panic attacks, you are sinning and showing a lack of faith. Unhealthy churches that teach you to hold in negative responses and emotions are creating cold and heartless Christians! Those of us who are going through a traumatic life experience need to be rallied around and treated with compassion and patience!  Instead, we are being taught to NOT have compassion, to NOT feel emotion, to NOT care about others. When we stuff down emotions, we become conditioned to be cold and heartless.  Again, this is dangerous.

When we stuff down negative emotions, we will also stuff good emotions down too. As a result, it becomes easier to turn a blind eye to the abuse of others. Another result of stuffing down good emotions is that life will lose its joy. Instead of seeing the goodness in life, we will focus on the negative. Negative emotions WILL control how you view yourself, view others and view the world around you. If your view is negative, then your responses will also be negative. One of my biggest struggles is viewing life through the lense of beauty and goodness. Because of the many years of emotional and spritual abuse in a religious cult, I easily see the evil and sin arround me. This negative focus causes distrust and fears. De-programming from this kind of view of life has been a very long and difficult process because I have been “conditioned” to respond a certain way.

Painful emotions are not a sign of weak faith. Even Christ expressed strong, painful emotions — he wept when Lazerus died, when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he told his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He exhibited anger when he overthrew the tables in the Temple. Christ did not lack faith, but he did exhibit negative emotions.

Now let me balance all this out by saying this. We CAN have emotions that may very well be immature and/or show a lack of faith!  We can very well have sinful emotions such as jealousy, envy, spite, self-centeredness, rage, etc. Sinful emotions and actions are somewhat easy to detect and differentiate.  I am not talking about these.

It is very difficult to differentiate between faith and lack of faith because we cannot put ourselves in other people’s shoes to know their life experiences. Only God knows the thoughts and intents of the heart of man. Only God truly knows if there is a lack of faith.  Also realize that even if a person does lack faith, God will not accuse, condemn, label, or judge that person! Instead, he will excercise compassion, gentleness and love toward them. Anyone who judges someone’s emotions or actions as lack of faith is putting themselves in the place of God. In exercising judgment in this manner, by default, they are exercising a lack of compassion and genuine love toward another in need of help and healing. This type of judgment only heaps more hurt and anguish on the one suffering.

If we cannot differentiate between faith and lack thereof, then what should our response be to someone who is suffering depression or emotional distress or grief? Compassion, gentleness, kindness, patience, and love. These all help in healing because these traits allow for the one suffering to expend the emotions, hopefully deal with them, and move forward in recovering from the trauma. These traits also strengthen faith in the one suffering! Not dealing with the emotional distress of the death of my closest friend, crippled me in so many ways mentally and emotionally and exacerbated other areas of my life where my response should have been more compassionate and kind toward others. I was taught to ignore my emotions, stuff them all inside, and forget. Because I was taught how to ignore my emotions, I became cold, uncaring and lacked compassion. Then, there were those times when something small would “trigger” all the pent up anger and emotion and I would unleash a tirade and venom at a loved one saying things I didn’t mean.  Undoing the programming has been quite a process. While I have made large strides, there are times when I feel as though the path to full recovery is still very far away. The negative self talk and fears just do not disappear with the revelation of truth! Instilled beliefs do not disappear at the revelation of truth! It takes a conscious effort to undo what has been instilled.

Feeling or expressing negative emotions is not a sin. They are not the result of a lack of faith or trust in God. Expression is a release. Just as a pressure cooker releases the pressure when the lid is removed, our emotions release the pressure when we are allowed to express them appropriately and receive consolation, genuine concern, and love in getting through them. Expression leads to compassionate behaviors, kindness and genuine love and concern toward others. It helps us to live weightless so we can sleep at night. Holding it all in makes for angry, uncompassionate, bitter people who live their lives in fear, discontent and gloom. Having or lacking faith is not for others to judge. Telling someone their faith is not good enough is the same as telling them they are not good enough. The truth is that God says we are good enough – where we are, whether we have faith or not.

What does God DELIGHT in?

Believe it or not, there are countless millions that sincerely believe that God delights in their religiosity. What is religiosity? It is any or all of the following:

•  Attending a church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other place of worship
•  Serving in a ministry of any place of worship
•  Converting others
•  Following religious rules put in place by religious leaders or those of the Old Testament
•  Punishing sinners
•  Reading and studying religious texts
•  Supporting church leaders
•  Unquestionable loyalty to a religious institution
•  Unquestionable loyalty to religious leaders
•  Super modest attire (women and young girls only)
•  Giving to the church or its ministry needs
•  Growing a church to large numbers
•  Bringing people to church to ‘hear the truth’ or to get ‘saved’
•  Blind loyalty to religiously taught dogmas and precepts
•  Memorizing religious texts

Actually, this list of religious behaviors (religiosity) could really go on and on! It is endless what people believe will please God and make them ‘right with God.’ So, for the sake of the millions who are living under this premise that they are pleasing God, I would like to shed some light on what God says pleases him. I have already covered what pleases God many times in articles on this blog. However, sometimes it is necessary to not ‘beat around the bush’ and just come right out and say it plainly…..RELIGIOSITY AND RELIGION DO NOT PLEASE GOD!

• Attending a religious institution does NOT please God!
• Serving in a ministry of a religious institution does NOT please God!
• Following religious rules does NOT please God!
• Memorizing religious texts does NOT please God!
• Punishing sinners does NOT please God!
• Dressing ‘modestly’ does NOT please God!
• Reading and studying religious texts does NOT please God!
• Financially supporting religious institutions and their leaders does NOT please God!
• Unquestionable loyalty to a religious institution, its leaders, its dogmas and precepts, does NOT please God!
• Building a church does NOT please God!
• Bringing people to church (a religious institution) to ‘hear the truth’ or to get ‘saved’ does NOT please God!

Well, some of you might be thinking at this point that what I have just stated sounds ridiculous. Well, maybe if I deliver my thoughts differently you won’t think I’m completely off my rocker. So, let’s take a look at what GOD says pleases him as compared to what man tells us pleases Him. Religions of the world tell us that all the above things please God and keep us in ‘good standing’ with Him. Not so.

According to the Prophets – What pleases God?

Micah taught that God’s primary demand of human beings is to act ethically: “And what does the Lord require of you? To do JUSTICE, love MERCY, and walk HUMBLY with God” (6:8). Micah doesn’t speak of faith, sacrifices, or religious behaviors or rituals. Instead he says God’s most significant demands are justice, mercy (compassion), and humility. All of these traits are rooted in ETHICS.

“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; let not the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches. But one should only glory in this: That he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, Who exercises mercy, justice and righteousness on the earth. For in these I delight, says the Lord.(9:23-24)”

Jeremiah singles out the top three things that people tend to pride themselves on which cause them to feel superior to others and feel smug in their religiosity. But what delights God the most is mercy, justice and righteousness. Anyone who does not understand this does not “understand and know” God.

Don’t expect God to be impressed with how smart you are, how strong you are or how much money you have. Compared with God and his wisdom, strength and wealth, these mean nothing to him. However, using these things to bless others can impress God when used to achieve ethical ends. In other words, teach and inspire others to be good, use your power and strength to protect the oppressed, give your money to help those in need. People that do these things are pleasing to God.

According to Jewish teaching, Isaiah condensed the Old Testament’s 613 commandments into six principles of behavior:

• Practicing righteousness
• Speaking truthfully and fairly
• Spurning dishonest gain
• Refusing bribes
• Closing one’s ears to blood (not associating with anyone plotting violence against another)
• Closing one’s eyes from seeing evil (blindness to abuses and abusers)

Jewish Wisdom teaches us that, according to Isaiah, a person who does these things “will dwell on high” (33:15-16); i.e. be rewarded by God. Isaiah, according to Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, “denounced the tendency to believe that God’s favor can be won by those who do evil, and then offer prayers or perform ritual acts: “And when you lift up your hands [in prayer], I will turn My eyes from you. Though you pray at length, I will not listen. Your hands are stained in blood” (1:15).

God’s main wish for us as his children is to be righteous and ethical. It is not his wish for us to act religiously! Your religiosity has absolutely nothing to do with ethics. Religiosity does not make one ethical, righteous, humble, or pleasing to God.

“Is such the fast I desire, a day for men to starve their bodies? Is it bowing the head. . .and lying in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast, a day when the Lord is favorable? No, this is the fast I desire: . . . to let the oppressed go free and to break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, and to take the wretched into your home; when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to ignore your own kin” (58:5-7). Isaiah is telling us that we should not fast to try and please God, we should fast so that we know what it is like to be hungry! In knowing what it is like to put ourselves in shoes of the less fortunate, we will have more compassion on our fellow man who is in need. We will treat such a person with kindness, compassion, love and mercy – all ethical behaviors. Most people I know fast in order to get something from God. How many fast in order to learn to exercise humility, compassion, mercy, or justice in dealing with others?

Both of these men emphasized the importance of ethical behavior over religiosity. According to Amos, any prayer offered by unethical people actually offends God: “Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice well up as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (5:22-24).

Hosea teaches that ethical behavior appeases God. “For I desire kindness and not sacrifice, attachment to God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).

Zechariah also proclaims that God’s main concern is for people to behave ethically: “then the word of God came to Zechariah: This is what the God of Hosts said: ‘Render true justice, be kind and merciful to one another. Do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the convert or the poor; and do not plot evil in your hearts against one another’” (Zechariah 7:8-10). It was Israel’s refusal to obey these injunctions that brought God’s wrath upon them. What makes us think we can escape his wrath for ignoring them?

Malachi teaches that fair and compassionate treatment of others is the fruit of belief in God: “have we not all one father? Did not one God create us? Why do we break faith with one another (not treating them ethically), profaning the covenant of our ancestors?” (2:10). What this means is that it is important for us to not only do God’s will by treating others ethically (doing what is just and right and not breaking faith with others) but, we need to teach it to our children. “Gen 18:19: For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (This is the covenant of our ancestors: to do justice and judgment and teach it to our children.).

In looking back at biblical text it is important for us to realize the reasons God punished Israel and take heed. God condemned Israel for doing the following:

• Oppressing the poor (Amos 2:7)
• Perverting justice (Amos 5:7)
• Using unjust weights (Micah 6:10-11)
• Accepting bribes (Micah 3:11)
• Lying (Jeremiah 9:4)
• Murdering and stealing (Jeremiah 7:9)
• Adultery (Jeremiah 5:8)
• Swearing falsely (Jeremiah 5:2)
• Not paying workers their wages (Jeremiah 22:13)
• Disregarding others’ property rights (Micah 2:2)

Because of all these UNETHICAL behaviors, Israel was continually being punished by God. It doesn’t matter what you BELIEVE. It doesn’t matter your RELIGION. It doesn’t matter if you go to CHURCH or give exorbitant amounts of money to charitable institutions. None of these things PLEASE God. The ETHICAL treatment of others pleases God. Rooted in humility, ethical treatment of others is what God is wanting from his children. Religiosity has nothing to do with ethics. I know many who have forgone ethics to do what their religion tells them to do. They have prostituted themselves with the “church” to gain the favor of the church and its leaders instead of doing God’s will and walking humbly, exercising justice, and extending mercy and compassion to others.

Ethical behavior means more to God than your religion, your beliefs, your money, your sacrifice! Ethics come from WITHIN. They are a part of one’s character. They are rooted in genuine LOVE and RESPECT for one’s fellow man. Religiosity and religion are rooted in man’s opinions, interpretations, and man-made rules given by the religious institutions one serves. Religion and religiosity can actually undermine the work of the Spirit of God in our lives by overriding our conscience to follow religious rules and/or precepts in order to ‘be right with God.’ Both can become a part of our character. Both are learned behaviors and attitudes. One leads to righteousness, compassion, humility and mercy, the other leads to hate, oppression, murder, inequality, self-righteousness, judgmentalism, etc. One causes us to lift up and edify our neighbor, the other causes us to disregard, oppress and harm our neighbor.

With this in mind, let’s do what pleases God. In doing so, we will make the world a better place and bring God’s blessing upon us and our nation.