Tag Archives: Christians and abuse victims

Unbiblical, Part 6 – Forgiveness v. Victims’ Rights

“ ‘And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us’ ” (Luke 11: 4).

As I have said elsewhere on this website, forgiveness is a personal matter between abuse victims and their God. Urging forgiveness on victims prematurely ignores the gravity of their trauma, and the depravity of the sins committed against them.

This amounts to a further violation. Victims will necessarily feel that Christians are siding with the predator…even condoning the abuse. Shockingly, in some cases Christians have been guilty of this.

Witness the Catholic Church sex scandal. This was, at best, a product of poor judgment, and a distorted view of Scripture. At worst, it was a cold and calculated attempt to avoid corporate responsibility, while facilitating the most heinous of crimes.

Either way, church hierarchy applied precisely the same rationale to young abuse victims, as the high priest, Caiaphas, did to Christ:  “ ‘…[I]t is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish’ ” (John 11: 50).

To be clear, forgiveness is not a “warm and cozy” feeling, on the part of victims. It is a deliberate decision by victims to leave the harm inflicted on them behind, and instead move on with their lives. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Law, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Unbiblical, Part 5 – Self-Sacrifice v. Codependence

“The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”

– Mother Teresa

Self-sacrifice is natural to Christians, and encouraged. Christians are to put the legitimate needs of others ahead of their own, in imitation of Christ. Mother Teresa was a shining example of this. For abuse victims, however, self-sacrifice can become confused with codependence.

Codependence as an After-Effect of Abuse

Individuals suffering from codependence will allow the emotions and behavior of others to dictate their view of themselves. Those with codependence will tolerate – even, unconsciously, seek out – relationships that are “one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive verbally or physically” [1].

Codependent characteristics include low self-esteem; fear of anger; denial of any problems with the relationship; and an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the feelings, choices, and actions of the loved one [2].

While on its face, codependence may resemble Christian self-sacrifice, there are distinct differences between the two.

The codependent individual may forego his/her goals and desires to meet the perceived “needs” of a loved one. But the underlying motive for this is not the welfare of the loved one.  It is fear.

Actually, the codependent individual is attempting to shore up his/her fragile sense of worth, strike an unspoken bargain for love and affection, and maintain the relationship at all costs (however abusive or unsatisfying it may be). An overly solicitous mother might be a crude illustration.

By comparison, Christian self-sacrifice is not the attempt to manipulate (or placate) an individual perceived as more “important” or powerful. It is, or should be, truly selfless.

Clinging to an Imitation

None of this is meant to imply that abuse victims cannot love and love intensely. The problem lies in the fact victims have not seen healthy love modeled. What feels familiar is a flawed version of love, an imitation. The real love and support victims need seem out of reach, so we cling to the imitation with all our might, confusing pain for passion. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Unbiblical, Part 4 – Trusting God, Self, and Others

Trusting God v. Trusting Self

Christians talk casually about God’s plan for their lives and the lives of others. This can be grating to the ears of abuse victims (especially those new to, or unfamiliar with, the faith).

As victims are inclined to see it, God’s plan for them included abuse. Whether He caused that abuse or merely allowed it to occur, He failed to protect them against it. And they have the scars to prove that.

The issue of innocent suffering is a profound one, and cannot be papered over with a handy Bible verse. For abuse victims, coming to terms with it may be a lifelong struggle.

Trusting themselves can be as great a challenge. Abuse has effectively “taught” victims not to rely on their own judgment, their own instincts. This is something they must unlearn.

It is not helpful for Christians to urge victims to trust in God, rather than themselves. Such trust will come with time. It cannot be rushed. There are deep wounds which must be healed first.

Trusting Others

Christians should be sensitive in the language they use around abuse victims. To victims of incest, even the term “Father God” can sound disturbing. To those who were sexually abused or tortured by siblings, the term “brothers and sisters in Christ” may be equally threatening.

Christians should not pressure victims to drop their defenses, and should not hug or make other physical contact with victims without their permission.  Victims may experience either as invasive, and shy away.

Christians should allow abuse victims to take the lead, insofar as relationships. Friendships should not be forced.  These will develop as victims gradually come to see they will not be harmed.

This series will continue next week with Self-Sacrifice v. Codependence

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Unbiblical, Part 3 – Humility v. Lack of Worth

Many, if not most, victims will conclude from the abuse inflicted on them that they have little or no value. They are likely to view God as angry and withholding, unconcerned for their welfare. This applies whether the abuse is emotional, physical, sexual or in the form of neglect.

When in all humility Christians describe themselves as undeserving of Salvation or compare their righteousness to “filthy rags” (Is. 64: 6), abuse victims can readily identify. However, abuse victims are inclined to view themselves as irredeemable.

Having been treated like filthy rags, having been taught that love must be “earned” – and never is – victims may, even as adults, wrestle with shame and believe that they are worthless. This can drive them toward legalism (Christianity as perfectionism), in a frantic attempt to obtain the love they have been denied.

But God values every life. His love is freely given.

Christ said:

“ ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’ ” (Matt. 5: 5).

He said:

“… ‘Whoever receives this little child in my name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great’” (Luke 9: 48).

Christians must, first and foremost, demonstrate God’s love to abuse victims.  If they fail in this, the shame is theirs.

This series will continue next week with Trusting God, Self, and Others

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Unbiblical, Part 2 – Sin Nature v. Abuse-Related Guilt

Christians speak regularly about the “sin nature” of mankind, the inclination by human beings to do wrong, as illustrated by wars and crime.

The following verses on the topic are typical:

“…[T]he imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” (Gen. 8:21).

“ ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…’” (Jer. 17:9).

“ ‘Then I will…take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh that they may walk in My statutes…’ ” (Ezek. 11: 19-20).

“ ‘For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies’ ” (Matt. 15: 19).

If anyone has experienced that sin nature, abuse victims have. Victims, however, have been more sinned against than sinning.

Unfortunately, the continuous emphasis on sin is likely to sound like condemnation to victims, when what they need is love, encouragement, and hope.

Christians should remember that abuse leaves behind deep scars. Victims of abuse may struggle with gender identification, sexual addiction or dysfunction, self-neglect, anxiety, depression, dissociation and related amnesia, drug or alcohol addiction, cutting, anorexia, bulimia, binging, and other issues. The majority of prostitutes are thought to be runaways, with a history of abuse.

Dealing with major problems like these is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for the self-righteous. Merely living ordinary lives can take enormous effort and enormous courage by abuse victims. That victims, for the most part, accomplish this is amazing.

Victims should not be made a topic of gossip. Nor should they be subjected to snap judgments, whether about their morality or mental state.

Above all, victims should be reassured that they were not the guilty party in abuse; that, as children, they were wholly incapable of consent to whatever was done to them; and that God still loves them, despite all they have been through.

This series will continue next week with Humility v. Lack of Worth

 FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

 

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Filed under Abuse of Power, Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Prostitution, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Unbiblical, Part 1 – Submission v. Self-Defense

In a misguided effort to provide comfort and direction to abuse victims, well-meaning Christians will often quote Bible verses out of context or cite biblical principles which do not apply to abuse, thereby actually exacerbating the pain victims feel.

As a result, victims may turn away from the real comfort they would find in Christ.

This series of articles is intended to clarify – both for Christians, and abuse victims interacting with them – certain Scriptural passages and principles that could otherwise be misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Submission v. Self-Defense

Perhaps the most damaging is the principle of “headship”.  The basis for this can be found in Chapter 5 of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, among a set of instructions on holy living for both men and women.  The entire chapter speaks of Christians loving and being “submissive” to one another.

The frequently overlooked instruction to husbands (highlighted below) is an integral part of the principle:

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for her [Emphasis added]…” (Eph. 5: 22-25).

God alone knows how many battered women have lost their lives on bad and unbiblical advice from a priest or minister that they return to a dangerous household, and submit to the will of their abusive, alcoholic, or drug addicted husbands. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women