Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Have You Been Spiritually Hazed?

Winkipedia has this to say on the subject of hazing:
"Hazing” refers to any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person's willingness to participate. In years past, hazing practices were typically considered harmless pranks or comical antics associated with young men in college fraternities.

Today we know that hazing extends far beyond college fraternities and is experienced by boys/men and girls/women in school groups, university organizations, athletic teams, the military, and other social and professional organizations. Hazing is a complex social problem that is shaped by power dynamics operating in a group and/or organization and within a particular cultural context.

In the context of “any activity expected… [to join] a group…that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional…harm” I endured hazing for two plus decades. In my perspective the dynamic was a power play of a narcissistic woman to see how far she could degrade without protest from the “hazee” or the surrounding crowd.

For example: a church member spends a holiday with a family member outside of the church with whom they share a relatively strong bond. Upon the next church service, the pastor would stand to her feet and say God had revealed a “rebellious spirit” to her: like Achan and the hidden gold, there was sin “hidden in the camp”.

Whenever she made that announcement, my heart would beat faster, my mouth would go cotton dry, and often I would sweat a vile smell from sheer fear.
She would then begin to vaguely list the symptoms of the afflicted person. Each church member had been assigned evil character traits by the pastor. If she spoke of a family spirit or someone that was always tired (I had an auto-immune disease- fatigue is a normal symptom) I knew my number was up: God through her was about to check my loyalty by public ridicule.

The pastor would rant and rave about my last year’s worth of mistakes, real or imagined. Then the congregation would stand to their feet one by one and say how that if they were blessed enough to have God reveal spiritual danger through such a wonderful mouth piece, they would fall to their knees and repent. Kind church members would talk about their last experience with God’s cleansing. If you were lucky like me you got to sit by one of the pastor’s favored people and have loud “AMENS” yelled in your ear as the pastor revealed the worst of your offenses to the whole church. It was bitter humiliation to say the very least.

I knew the only way to stop the emotional torture was to stand and admit to every offense she had listed. Many times she would have the guilty party come forward and have the evil cast out of them by prayer.
The final humiliation was to publicly thank her for the emotional abuse and call it a gift from God.

And her hazing had accomplished what she intended: her power over the group had been re-enforced, I was debased in my own eyes and the eyes of my peers and not much of a threat to the system, and the on-lookers would be loath to find themselves in such a situation by attempting any family visits.

She had many such tactics to ensure her twisted authority, such as instructing family members, even husbands and wives to distance themselves from the offending party.

Hazing, in my mind, is a great tool for an abuser to keep their place of authority right where they want it: right on the neck of the hazed church member.

Have you been "hazed" in an abusive church? Please add your experience in the comments below.

Further Reading:
Exploring Bounded Choice
Can't You See I'm Dying?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Informative Links

If you scroll down the blog you will notice a sidebar titled "Informative Blogs". I highly recommend each of them as they are excellent resources on recognizing and escaping spiritual abuse.

There are several links that I would like to bring to the top of the list due to their relevant topics:

1. Signs of Spiritual Abuse by the blog "Religious Cults in the South"
2. Newspaper in California Cover Spiritual Abuse and Red Flags by the blogger "Provender"
3. Strong Delusion and What We Lose by Danny Bryant
4. The Grieving Process: Depression & Loneliness by the Blogger My Teen Mania Experience
5. Conversations About Spiritual Abuse by Pluck’s Blog

Hope For the New Year

It is my fervent hope that one day my ex-pastor will awaken to the knowledge that she is an abuser. I pray that she will confess her sins and make recompense to those she has wounded in God's name.

This is the link to a letter I wrote in the throes of the PTSD I experienced after leaving the cult.

I know she has read the letter. It served to only enrage her.

I wish she would come to the true knowledge of God's saving grace.