Spirituality, Religion, and Abuse
How an abuser will use religious and spiritual beliefs to exact control
Date: 3/31/2011 9:10:57 AM ( 11 y ) ... viewed 11435 times
Spiritual and religious abuse are powerful weapons for an abuser, regardless of whether the relationship is romantic or platonic. Many of us are raised with core spiritual/religious values - we are comfortable in rituals, prayer, or meditation. When that comfort is called into question and ridiculed, it's unkind and based upon prejudice. "Witches are all evil," was a statement that the former abuser often made in reference to people who practice Wicca. Well, I didn't really see it that way. I am comfortable in exploring all cultural systems of beliefs, as long as they do not inflict deliberate harm and/or outrageous restrictions. Although I was raised a Christian, I don't align myself with any organized sect simply because the limitations that human beings have placed upon the Great Creator, and the subjugation required to be "good" just don't fly with me. If others are comfortable with it, that's fine - I'm not posting about this sensitive and personal issue to start a debate. But, in this world, people are allowed to maintain whatever system of beliefs that they wish, and it is not my place to endorse or refute their beliefs unless those beliefs cause deliberate harm.
The abuser was well informed of my spiritual beliefs, and my belief that there is, indeed, a Creator, was fuel enough. He would often agree with my views, citing them as "progressive," before entering into the contract of marriage. Yeah, he would talk about other religions with some disdain, but nothing that was too terribly alarming. I just allowed myself to believe that he was firm in his Christian faith, and let it ride.
The marriage ceremony was held in an Episcopal church - that's what I had been raised in. He, on the other hand, had no organized affiliation and this only seemed reasonable, at the time. The pastor/father gave us pre-marital counseling (we were already legally married) and administered the standard personality test. We sat to discuss the results, and it was astonishing. He suggested that we might experience difficulties if we didn't learn how to communicate effectively, and the abuser went off the rails. He accused the Father of concocting the results just in order to set us up for paid counseling, which we obviously didn't need, because the abuser trusted me with his own life. We went on with the ceremony, accepted the gifts, cut the wedding cake, and drove off as a socially married couple. Oh, boy - did the Father's words ever come back to haunt me over the years? You bet they did!
After the ceremony, I did not maintain my membership in the church, though I did explore other religions and went to a couple of services over the next 8 years. During this time, the abuser would expound and pontificate about what "it means" to "be a Christian" in the eyes of God. "God says that you're supposed to obey me! If you don't, you're breaking His Law!" was a frequent remark that the abuser would make if I failed to agree with his views, refused to engage in humiliating or painful sex, developed a thought of my own, or dared to question his "authority." According to the abuser, he had "husbandly rights" ordained by God, and I was required to fulfill his "husbandly needs" whenever he demanded, and in whatever manner that he demanded. This, along with the crazy-making brainwashing, made for a very, very frightened person.
If the abuser was verbally abusive, he would excuse his abuse by saying, "You're not obeying me, and you're not obeying God!" If the abuser physically harmed me, he would respond, "It's NOT abuse, and God knows that it isn't abuse!"
There is a great deal more to this than the simple examples above, as spiritual beliefs are as varied as there are stars in our Universe. Any time a potential partner, friend, or family member ridicules someone's system of beliefs (as long as those beliefs do not inflict deliberate harm), it is abuse. If someone requires another person to convert to their religion in order to be married or accepted as a friend or family member, it is abuse. When someone warps and perverts passages, verses, and theology to humiliate, degrade, and belittle, it is abuse. No man or woman is fit to judge another's spirituality - Legal matters are a whole different animal, but we, as human beings, are entitled and allowed to make our own decisions about what we will, and will not, believe.
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