Thursday, December 31, 2009

The heart of a protector

A while ago, I took an online personality test and the results were amazingly accurate. They showed that I'm an Introvert, Sensing, Feeling and Judging. (ISFJ) My personality was described as a protector or a defender. When I saw the results, I immediately thought, "Wow! That's me!" This is a personality trait that I've come to recognize.

I tend to have compassion for the underdog and I immediately want to rescue them from hurt. I hate to see anyone or anything abused which is why I try to promote online groups like "The Animal Rescue Site" and "Not One Sparrow" which focus on animal rights. This has also led to a passion to inform people about the damage caused by spiritual abuse. I've never been one to march and protest but I do share online about those issues that have become important to me.

Being a protector is a wonderful characteristic but, like all personality traits, it also has its downside. After many years of struggling with this, I'm finally beginning to accept the fact that I can't rescue everyone.

A number of years ago, I was involved in a spiritually abusive church. Even after I became aware of what was happening, I stayed and a large part of the reason why was because of my desire to rescue the pastor and to see him set free. Also, I wanted to protect the people from his abuse. I finally left but I felt guilty for many years feeling like I had failed God. I've since come to understand that I left because it was time. God had accomplished in me all that he wanted to accomplish and it was just time to leave.

Since I've become involved with online groups, I've once again seen this trait surface. Unless properly moderated, online groups tend to become extremely abusive. I was a member of two groups that became abusive and I finally had to terminate my membership. Even after I left, I would check in daily out of curiosity. Finally, in order to maintain my sanity, I had to drastically limit even that. I've found that I have to be extremely careful because seeing the abuse and feeling helpless to stop it is emotionally draining for me.

I stayed in both groups longer than I should have because I wanted to protect the other members. Worry and concern for their welfare was tearing me apart emotionally. Putting some distance between me and those abusive groups has helped me tremendously.

I’ve come to believe that it’s impossible to bypass leadership. They control all the cards and there’s nothing I can do to change them or the abusive system from the inside. The truth is each member is free to choose . . . they can stay or they can leave. It’s really up to them. I know people can be so emotionally beaten down that it’s hard to make decisions but ultimately, it’s up to them to take responsibility for their own rescue.

Because of my personality, I’m having to learn to put limits on myself. The bottom line is do I really trust God? Do I really believe that he loves them and will take care of them? While I can be a friend to some, I can’t rescue the world and the truth is that it's really God's responsibility and not mine.

Do we trust God to take care of our friends. They have a spiritual journey they have to walk themselves, just them and God. We can't be expected to rescue everyone. By doing so, we may circumvent the very avenue that God will provide for their escape. Let God be God. Pray, have faith, rest and take comfort in His faithfulness.” (Pigs in the Pulpit – p.287)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I appreciate all of you who read the rambling thoughts that I post here. Some of you add comments and some of you don't but I hope what I share has been an encouragement to you as you're learning to forget the former things and walk in the new things that God has given you. I look forward to continuing this journey with you in the new year.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Range Wars

Recently, hubby and I watched a television program about The Range Wars that took place in Wyoming during the late 1800’s. Cattle barons had taken over government lands as grazing land for their herds and, when The Homestead Act was passed, these lands were given to private individuals by the government. These homesteaders built fences around their property and, at times, rustled cattle from the large cattle owners. Eventually, this resulted in what became known as The Range Wars.

In an attempt to drive out the homesteaders and to stop the flood of settlers, the cattle owners lynched a couple of homesteaders and then hired assassins to kill the rest. For a while, it looked like the cattle owners had won since they had powerful allies. The local newspapers twisted their reporting to support them and, at one point, the President got involved and helped to free a group of assassins. The deck seemed stacked against the homesteaders and it looked like the cattle owners were sure to win. Of course, we know today that their victory was short lived. Homesteaders continued to settle the entire West and eventually the old way of life ended.

I began to think about how we tend to fight change. When our way of life is threatened, we’ll fight to maintain the status quo but often all we accomplish is to postpone the inevitable. When a group is firmly entrenched with power and money on its side, it’ll do anything it can to preserve its way of life This in my opinion is what I see happening in the modern day church.

George Barna in his book “Revolution” concluded that "The number of Christians attending local church in the USA is declining rapidly. Today, 70% of Christians attend traditional churches, but this will sink to 30-35% in 20 years." He further predicted that "The number of followers of Jesus who do not attend a local church will grow from 30% to 70% in the next 20 years."

That can be scary statistics for those who are firmly entrenched in the current system of institutional church. Like the cattle barons, they often resort to extreme measure. While they can’t hire assassins to physically kill those who are leaving, they do use the power of the press to twist their reporting to frighten believers by calling them rebellious and telling them the dangers that await them if they leave the fold. Magazines like Charisma that support their way of life have devoted major portions of some issues to describing the danger in an attempt to scare those who leave.

I believe the popularity of the internet has been a major catalyst for these changes and I also believe that despite all attempts to stop them, these changes will accelerate and continue to grow until the old way of life is ended. As happened after the range wars, the cattle barons still continued to raise cattle but their power and their ability to control their environment dramatically decreased. I believe we’ll always have some form of institutional church. Some people enjoy them and thrive in that environment. However, I believe over time, we’ll begin to see more and more believers who are thriving outside of an organized structure.

Eventually, it became obvious to the cattle barons that they were fighting a losing battle and that their only option was to coexist with the settlers. I think the church is faced with the same decision. There’s room for both groups, however, conditions will continue to change. As Jesus is building his Church, he will place some members outside of a local body and they will thrive there. Others, he’ll continue to send into an institutional system. I think the key for us is to remember that it’s his Church and he can build it anyway he wants. Our responsibility is to find the method that works best for us and to not look down on others who have chosen another method.

I love the variety of the church that we have today. I still go on Sunday mornings and have no desire to stop going. However, the vast majority of my friends don’t go. I love the richness of our fellowship as we share life from our different perspectives.

It’s a great day to be a member of the Church. No longer do we have to be bound to a religion that requires us to conform to an outward standard for acceptance. We’ve now been given the freedom to decide how we’re going to relate to the Church that Jesus is building and I’m thankful that I can freely follow him wherever and however he leads.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Letter from Meredith

I received the following email after I was interviewed by Jim Robbins on his Good and Noble Heart podcast. Meredith shared her experiences in an abusive church and I believe many of us can relate to what she went through.

She has graciously agreed to allow me to post it here. My hope is that as you read her story, you'll be encouraged to move more deeply into the love and freedom that God has given to us.

Hi Aida,

Jim Robbins suggested that I write you and share some of my experiences with you regarding spiritual abuse. I listened to your interview on Jim's site yesterday and you were just great. Like you, I have survived abusive churches and am super well and have learned a lot from the experiences.

I told Jim I would share my response to your interview in an e-mail. There are a lot of similarities in our experiences. I think this kind of abuse follows the grand design for this kind of thing. The thing that I am most interested in lately is the particular special abuse heaped on women in these situations.

Thanks for letting Jim interview you.

The following is my response on Jim's site to your interview.

Thanks!

Meredith

Hi Jim,

Great interview with Aida! She is amazing!

Having been though spiritual abuse myself...and I think many have---even more than realize it...She brought up a lot of points that resonated with my experience.

Submission--- Ha ha ha This is a BIG one, and something that I was very much criticized for. In fact I was labelled rebellious. These religious leaders do exactly what Aida says. The speak about submission and state that we are to unquestionably follow leadership and even if they ask you to do something wrong, you have to do it and God will bless you, otherwise you will be cursed. (I never bought that one.) And Jim, you are so right, this is a very cult-like. I remember leaving a church and the pastor insisted upon a meeting with me and I told him that it was starting to feel cult-like there. He said "we've been called that before..." I got chills.


Vested interest in ignorance---- Yes! Aida said that well! It is unbelievable that a church leader could know the truth or part of it and still withhold it. But they do. In these instances I assume that they are not who they say they are, because that behavior is not a product of goodness. They do this so that they have people around to do things and finance the church. Guilt is a good motivator to get people to do things...tithe, volunteer time, keep them in the church....

Upheaval---- Aida's experience matches mine. If something is going well, it is ended. And also it seems that the pastor will throw his support behind a class or project that is unfruitful or a complete failure. If someone complains that they do not want to participate in it. He will state that that person is not spiritually astute enough to understand its value. They want to keep people down not enlighten and free them.

Conformity--- I could go on forever on this. Originality and alternative views on scripture are demonized. If the pastor wants you at a particular meeting and you tell him you cannot then he will freeze you out and bring it up at a later date. I just have to tell this... There was a tea party at the church on a Sunday. Services were held Saturdays. They had me there virtually every afternoon after work/ school to "help" with things. I needed one day out of the week to do laundry and rest. I was approached by someone who asked if it was okay of they changed me from one table to another for the day of the tea party. I told them I did not RSVP and I should not be on any seating charts at all. I asked who said I would be there and no one answered but everyone was irrate. I told them that I had already been there 6 days and I need to rest. (Bad answer.) Well, I got calls from 3 people in leadership questioning why I wasn't going to the dumb tea party. I still refused and they were further angered..... I was respectful in my refusal and couldn't understand what the big deal was. That was the beginning of my bad reputation....:0)

But I agree with Aida that the experience does make us richer even though it is incredibly painful at the time. I too would not be the person I am today and wouldn't have understood any of this.

Meredith