How do you reconcile your spiritual faith with some of the messages you received about sin? In last night’s episode of New Amsterdam; a cutting edge (no pun intended) hospital show, there was a couple whose young son had a heart transplant and the family could not afford the anti-rejection medications. A solution to getting them covered was that the parents would get a divorce and as a single parent, mom could receive benefits to pay for his meds. The parents would still be together with their son, still be married in their hearts, but in the eyes of the church, they would be ‘living in sin’. The little boy was upset because Sister So and So (his teacher) told him that divorce was a sin and that mom and dad would go to Hell because of it and he would end up in Heaven without them. A Cardinal who was ‘the Pope’s right-hand man’ was at the hospital on security duty because the Pope was in town and if there happened to be an emergency and the pontiff needed care, the facility would be safe. At the end of the show, after being apprised of the situation, he said he had gotten special dispensation from the Pope for this situation and that even if the parents would legally get divorced, it would be cool. The boy and the parents were pleasantly surprised.
Now, of course, this is television and without the consent of the parents, Max who is the do-gooder hospital administrator with a heart of gold whose signature line, is “How can I help?” couldn’t go to bat with the Cardinal and even broach the subject. The second part is that it is unlikely, even as progressive as the current Pope is, that he would overturn church doctrine even if it meant saving a life. Still, I was glad for this fictional outcome.
My take is that any religion which tells people they will be cast out of God’s love in any way is practicing spiritual abuse. Any religion that tells people that their gender, religion, skin color, culture, sexuality, or any other identity, makes them inferior, or is condemned is practicing spiritual abuse. Any religion that says an intermediary is necessary to have what I call ‘Godversations,’ is practicing spiritual abuse.
Recently I sat with someone who shared that she grew up in a fundamentalist church in which she was told that suffering was the way to experience God. Her life experience included physical and sexual abuse. Her child-mind internalized that God and pain were intertwined and now in her 50’s, she is re-creating that relationship with a new perspective.
Over the years, I have encountered others who suffered at the hands and words of rigid religious dogma and doctrine that was used as a control, rather than connection with a loving and compassionate deity. What some might consider standard operating procedure in their way of worship could easily be seen as terrorizing and abusive. Words that shame, cause fear, have anyone believing that they will fall out of God’s loving embrace would fall into that category. At the extreme end of the spectrum are acts of sexual abuse and other ritual enactments.
I grew up in Conservative (not political) Judaism which is the middle ground between Orthodox and Reform. Nowhere in the teachings, I heard in our synagogue or home was there a hellfire and brimstone aspect. The closest thing was the liturgy of Yom Kippur in which we prayed to be inscribed in the Book of Life for a sweet new year. It had me wondering about all the people who died in any given year. Had they done something wrong? I later came to accept that life happens. People get sick, experience loss and some die. People who do good, die. People who do ill, live. Where’s the justice in that? Some things simply are. As I was growing up, I heard about those who bought into the idea that unless adherents believed as they did, they were sinners who were eternally damned. Imagine being told that as a child…the nightmares that might ensue.
As an interfaith minister, I know that I don’t have the right to tell anyone what to believe spiritually. It is an inside job and a personal relationship with the ‘God of their understanding’. Although I may be a guide, I am no guru. I am not a go-between. Each person has a direct line to the Divine.
When I posted the initial statement on Facebook, the responses were diverse.
“Probably one of the reasons I have such an issue with organized religion.”
“Our faith is personal, it cannot be contained in a box or held to others (including the church) standards. It saddens me that we are not more evolved and past this condemnation and judgment that in my humble opinion is so far from what ‘God’ (spirit, source) is about.”
“One can’t help but wonder how they can put that together.”
“Don’t we just get hung up on the words of it? Sounds in this case though a show that god would recognize the validity of their union regardless. Love is the language but it is often misunderstood or misinterpreted. Does god not speak to us all though we are taught it by sages limited by their own experiences and words?
In the end, it’s love and unity that are the governing powers in my view and the rest although can be misinterpreted does not make the language of the gods any less loving.”
“I suffered a lot of spiritual abuse early in life… but it also inspired me to live my life seeking Truth – and finding it!”
“I respect everyone’s choice to practice whatever faith, rituals speak to them. Since I was a little girl, anything that felt like separation from Source never resonated with me. How can one have dominion over another? How can anyone of us be separated from one another or even from “ourselves” when we are all One. We are connected, yet we are Sovereign Beings. Being raised in the Catholic faith, we were taught to kneel before any Bishop who was near and kiss his ring. I was six years old when the Bishop came to our school for a visit. The nun motioned for me to do that thing, I screamed, “Nooooo!” and ran down the hall away from him. Yuck! Yet another rule to make us powerless and separate from Source. Didn’t stand for it then, still don’t stand for it now. I agree with you Edie, it’s abusive. The time for Gurus and giving your power away is over.”
“One thought though about the workaround that the family arrived at: why do we have a system in which families have to be split, even if only technically, so as to qualify for life-saving medicine? Medicare for all!.”
” A rule that mandates such drastic measures is also abusive.”
“I moved from a structured Jewish religious upbringing to total spirituality. The Jewish faith always taught me that I have a direct connection to GOD yes no middle man..”
“The last time someone told me I was going to hell…I politely asked them if they’d be there. They blurted out: Well NO! I smiled and said, “Then I’ll go gladly”. Fixed that problem on the spot.”
— The Good Men Project (@GoodMenProject) March 10, 2019
We celebrate Gay Pride all year long. But this year, we’re doing some special programing for a large-scale campaign #LoveEqually. We’re looking for both sponsors and contributors. Check it out! https://t.co/tkraXFPxLL pic.twitter.com/X2FlBEZb8Y
— The Good Men Project (@GoodMenProject) March 11, 2019
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