Contrary to what many believe, God neither condones nor excuses abuse. Sadly, the true nature of God as revealed in the Bible has been misrepresented by finite men and women for centuries.
In his introduction to the blog, Dale Fincher describes the intentions and goals of FreeAtLast:
FreeAtLast is a blog exposing spiritual abuse to aid in the larger effort within the Church underground of awareness and advocacy. Eventually, the aim (to me) of this larger un-organized group is to raise the spiritual sensitivity and emotional health of the church so it may be equipped to sniff out spiritual abuse where it is planted.
The Apostle Paul said hypocrisy and abuse should be snuffed out in the church before we seek to change our larger community, lest we make others twice the demons of hell as ourselves.
At FreeAtLast, I will be looking at seeds of spiritual abuse (what allows spiritual abuse to happen), highlighting current issues, and sharing my own story of being spiritual abused through the college I attended.
I believe spiritual abuse is an epidemic in the church today. It is subtle, uses biblical language, and creates exceptional atheists.
Throughout history, more often than not, when people have acted upon a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of God, it has become a form of abuse – specifically, spiritual abuse. From the Crusades of the Middle Ages to the evangelical purity culture of the 1990s and early 2000s, men and women have suffered physical, sexual, verbal, and psychological abuse at the hands of other men and women claiming, and often genuinely believing, that they were carrying out the commandments of God. Their zeal need not be questioned but religious zealots without a knowledge of the true nature of God will not act in ways that please Him or accurately represent His character.
For example, one particularly strong underlying message of purity culture is that a woman’s body causes men to sin. Often without the church realizing it, they have contributed to rape culture and its dangerous myths.
God never said this was true – that a woman’s body was a shameful thing, responsible for the sexual sins of men. In fact, God created male and female with equal worth and equal responsibility for their own actions. When purity culture says that a woman’s body is shameful, that it must be hidden, it is not only denying the equality of the genders but cheapening the truth that God created male and female bodies with great purpose and calls them very good.
He calls them beautiful. The male and female physique reflect the creativity and love of their Creator. In fact, prior to the fall of man – the entrance of sin into the world (Genesis 3) – Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. They enjoyed a profoundly intimate relationship with their Creator – and each other – and had no need to be covered.
God gave them coverings from animal skins only after they had disobeyed Him.
Adam and Eve were not clothed because their nakedness embarrassed God, disgusted God, or made them somehow less human. Adam and Eve were clothed, in part, to signify their newly broken relationship with God. Where they had once had pure, perfect communion with Him and had enjoyed His presence, now their sin had separated them from Him. The clothing of Adam and Eve is not a lesson in modesty. It is a picture of the sinful state of man and the need for a sacrifice – a death – to atone for those sins. Even as Adam and Eve were pointing fingers at one another after they had disobeyed, God promised such a sacrifice in the person and work of His perfect Son, Jesus.
Jesus never shamed a woman for her body, even in a culture which was hostile toward women. Jesus healed the bodies of women. He befriended the women which society had dismissed or outright rejected. Ultimately, when He sacrificed Himself to forgive sins and conquer death, He did so out of love for both men and women.
Thus, to tell a woman (or a man) that her (his) body is anything less than beautiful and pleasing in the eyes of her (his) Creator is spiritual abuse.
Misusing God’s name means claiming the intentions and character of God are behind the thing that men and women are doing. This is spiritual abuse. Physical abuse involves hurting the body of another without just cause. Emotional abuse involves manipulating the emotional life of another without just cause. Spiritual abuse can involve both of these. But the ingredient necessary for spiritual abuse is that God is evoked as the reason for the abuse…
Whenever anyone is dehumanized, it is abuse. Whenever anyone is dehumanized in the name of God, it is spiritual abuse…What makes spiritual abuse so deadly? It obscures who God is and who we are. When someone is physically abused, she may have God to cry out to, like Jenny in Forrest Gump. But when someone has suffered the abuse as if it were from God himself, where does she go? Who does he pray to? What higher power is available to help? The Bible they read has been re-interpreted and poisoned against them. They cannot see the loving God. They see only an evil, twisted view of God through the lens of abused Scripture and an abusive community. Where do they go then? Like Huckleberry Finn, they may simply decide the only way up is down. Hell is perceived as the only relief. Spiritual abuse is damned and seeks to damn the people of God (Dale Fincher, What is Spiritual Abuse?)
Soulation was founded by Dale and Jonalyn Fincher with the purpose of helping people understand, appreciate, and live in light of their full humanity.