Spiritual Abuse & Deconstruction

January is spiritual abuse awareness. This is a term that gets quite a bit of pushback. The word abuse causes many to bristle with defensiveness and say… “that is too strong a word. This is not abuse…” By definition, abuse means to use wrongly or improperly; to misuse. To treat in a harmful, injurious or offensive way. To put it the most simply, spiritual abuse is to misuse Scripture, positions of spiritual leadership or other spiritual things. To use in a way that causes harm rather than brings life and healing. 

With that said, it is important to consider the relationship between spiritual abuse and the deconstruction that is happening in the evangelical church. I am increasingly grieved at the response of many leaders to deconstruction. I understand the fear it elicits; yet there is a very real relationship between deconstruction and spiritual abuse. Rather than seeking to understand what is happening, it seems many leaders are only digging their heels in deeper and further creating more of what is actually needing to be addressed. 

I understand deconstruction is happening for many different reasons, but in my experience both personally and in my counseling office, the vast majority of people I sit with are not deconstructing their faith in Jesus. They are deconstructing their faith in the church, its’ systems, cultural influences and examining the way much of Scripture has been used and taught. They are examining the misuse and harm they have experienced from something or someone that is designed to bring life and healing. The fruit doesn’t match; its incongruent. A healthy tree cannot produce unhealthy fruit. 

Many in our culture have had a false version of Jesus as a result of abuse and misuse of power and position by many Christian leaders. There is an experience of Jesus that has been shaped by spiritual trauma. They have been sold a “form of godliness” that lacks the true heart and power of Jesus. It has brought injury and death rather than healing and life. This needs to be acknowledged and not dismissed. In dismissing these very real experiences, leaders are not listening to the experiences that have caused great harm spiritually, often by the ones that were supposed to protect them. This is a misuse of power and position, which is a component of every form of abuse. The result is so much spiritual trauma and devastation. It also results in a faith system that operates out of our trauma brain…fear/shame/survival response. When we relate to God out of fear and shame, it blocks our ability to connect and experience secure attachment with God, where we experience life and life abundantly. 

Humbly I ask that we listen to the cries around us. With every fiber of my being, I believe the deconstruction message is the cry of a generation that is desperately trying to find Jesus.

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