11/08/2015 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Meagan ~
I recently had a friend encourage me to think of my de-conversion experience from Christianity like a divorce. She explained that while I feel freedom, I will also feel loss, and that it will take a while for me to heal and recover from the brainwashing. She was so right!
What are the attributes of an abusive relationship?
1. Control. In an abusive relationship, one partner controls the other partner through manipulation, financial control, extreme emotional reaction or withdraw, providing pleasure one minute and pain the next, brainwashing, and psychological head games.
2. Task based relating. In an abusive relationship, one partner views the other as an object to be used (a tool), rather than a whole person. The abused partner is expected to perform tasks in order to benefit the other partner to the exclusion of him or herself.
3. Often in abusive relationships, one partner enters into a sexually submissive or servitudal role (not to be confused with consensual BDSM acts). The partner is expected to perform sexually for the benefit of his or her partner and to the exclusion of his or her own pleasure. Sometimes in abusive relationship, sexual pleasure is used as a means of control and manipulation.
4. In abusive relationships, the abused partner often forms a trauma bond. This is a unique bond with the perpetrator of the abuse, and it is powerful and strong. The abused partner will defend the abuser even when a factual and realistic argument is made against the abuser. This bond is not logical. The abused person forms this bond in the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that controls our primal survival instinct. The amygdala does not communicate directly with the frontal lobe, which deals with logic and reason, so logical arguments cannot persuade an abused partner. The abused partner must feel safe for a long period of time before logic can set in. The bond between abuser and abused is purely survival based.
How does this relate to Christianity?
1. Christian lay people are often controlled and manipulated by Christian leadership. Christians are often exploited financially through the use of emotional pull and a fear of displeasing God. Christians are literally taught that failure to give money is equal to stealing from God. Christians are manipulated through emotion. Christians are told emotional stories of conversion experiences, “sinful” lifestyles and rescues, starving and abused children etc. When Christians fail to perform, they are punished through relational withdraw. They are often outed from social circles, gossiped about, or publically shamed.
2. Christians are taught to have a task based relationship with God and the church. Christians are taught that in order to become great in the kingdom of God, they must be like a servant. Christians are regularly taught that in order to lead a solid Christian life, service to the church is paramount. They are taught to think of church attendance in terms of what they can give rather than what they can get. They are taught that if they come to church to get something, they are like sheep, but if they come to give something, they are likened to animals like eagles or lions. Either way, they are like animals, but hey, who wants to be a sheep? Christian wives are taught to serve their husbands even when they are ill. This is valued as being a “good” Christian wife. Christian children are taught radical obedience to parents. Often times, normal questions are not allowed and normal developmental stages of developing autonomy are punished. Christians are given endless lists of dos and don’ts and rights and wrongs, and it’s so impossible, they can’t possibly keep it all straight (and in enters the “saved by grace” teaching).
3. Christians are taught loony things about sex and sexuality. Christians are taught that their bodies belong to God and anything outside of “vanilla” sex within a marriage relationship between one man and one woman is wrong and displeasing to the God who “owns” you. Young Christians are taught that any sexual behavior outside of marriage (even including kissing and private masturbation) is wrong, but as soon as they get married, they are taught to give sex without restraint whenever the partner wants it (this is taught more often to women, but it IS taught to both partners). This creates a fear of sex in young people who are then expected to somehow miraculously desire the sex they are afraid of the minute they get married. This creates sexual dysfunction. Young Christians are taught that sex makes them dirty, and then are expected to feel no shame in sex within the marriage relationship. This is a no win scenario that creates an automatic shame response when experiencing sexual pleasure. Some Christians spend their entire lives not feeling pleasure all because they were taught very conflicting sexual messages as children. This is the psychological equivalent to female circumcision and male castration. Whether it’s physical or psychological, the result is the same: no pleasure from sex.
4. Christians unquestioningly defend God, leadership, and Christianity without the use of logic or reason. They tend to make strong emotional but illogical arguments. Christians are often not able to see logic until they are away from the church structure for some time. Christians often refuse to leave their church out of loyalty, even when their relationship with the church causes them to be unhealthy and unhappy. These are all classic symptoms of trauma bonding, and point to abusive relationships within the church. From my observation, Christians related to God and their churches from the amygdala, which is the primal survival part of the brain. There seems to be a disconnect between the amygdala and the frontal lobe in relation to religious belief and practice. From a psychological perspective, this actually makes sense. Human beings feel safe when in relationship with something or someone who is bigger and stronger than our individual selves (this is due to infant dependency during formative years) and rather than bonding to collective humanity or connecting with nature, many people connect instead to ideas of God and the leadership structure of church.
With time, I will heal from this relationship I had with Christianity. My brain will see more and more logic and reason as time goes on. For now, I will feel happy in my freedom and safe in the knowledge that I am now more connected to collective humanity. To my fellow divorcees, enjoy your freedom!
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