Jewish author Shalom Auslander describes his experiences being brought in an orthodox Jewish community as “theological child abuse” in his new memoir, Foreskin’s Lament. This book is a must read for anyone wanting to gain more understanding of what it’s like to be raised in a fundamentalist environment. Auslander’s anger is tempered only by a sharp sense of humor, and his stories clearly show the lingering scars of his childhood torments. Fortunately Auslander was able to escape, became a writer, and found a way to productively channel his anger.
Not everyone who suffers from childhood spiritual abuse is so lucky. After I wrote about Matthew Murray the other day, there were a flurry of comments that showed that I wasn’t clear in what I’d written, saying that there are deeper problems in stories like this than simply claiming that the perpetrator of violence is insane. As it turns out, Murry was also a victim of theological or spiritual abuse.
“I got into a debate with two prayer team staff members,” he wrote. “These two staff members watched me throughout the conference to find out who I was with. They found my mother and told her this story that went something along the lines of I “wasn’t walking with the lord and could be planning violence.”
Murray’s mother, Loretta Murray, said through a spokeswoman that there was no such incident involving two church staff members.
After the conference, the user said his mother and a pastor searched his room for “anything evil,” including video games and a DVD collection.
“After that incident my mother searched my room for the next 3 months EVERY SINGLE DAY. After that I decided it was over, that I had had it with christianity.”
He said being removed from the Arvada mission caused him to lose his faith.
“When I got back home it was back to the good old restriction and that is when I started having serious doubts about christianity,” Chrstnghtmr wrote.
But according to the post, problems at the mission were only part of a troubled past.
“In addition to all of (Christian homeschool curriculum guru) Bill Gothard’s insanity, my mother was into all the charismatic/”fanatical evangelical” insanity.,” Christnghtmr wrote. “Her and her church believed that Satan and demons were everywhere in everything. The rules were VERY strict all the time. We couldn’t have ANY christian or non-christian music at all except for a few charismatic worship CDs.”
After trying to “go all out for God” and failing, Christnghtmr wrote he fell into deep depression.
I know many people will discredit his words because of his actions. But I believe him. I lived through very similar experiences and I know for a fact that stories like this are true. I’ve seen parents and pastors act like this, and I know the rest of what goes along with it. Religious indoctrination, when it fails to create pliant and obedient sheep, causes extreme emotional distress and constant mental torment. That’s bad enough for adults, but for children and teenagers, the terrors are beyond anything that can be created by ghost stories or horror movies. I’m 46, quit going to church over 15 years ago, and I still have nightmares. And I am not alone. I am in an ex-fundamentalist support group where I hear stories of adults, and even senior citizens, being haunted by their childhood religious indoctrination over and over and over again.
What’s sad is that his mother will be told that she has done nothing wrong, that she raised her son according to the Bible, and the churches and Christian organizations involved will not even be introspective enough to consider their role in causing Murray’s pain and anguish, and the blame will be put squarely on Satan’s shoulders. Such a convenient scapegoat.
Am I psychic or what? In my local paper, there’s an article today with the Christian home schooling institute coming out and saying, “This had nothing to do with our teachings.” The blatant denial is just sickening. Here’s what the kid had to say about it:
Me, I remember the beatings and the fighting and yelling and insane rules and the Bill Gothard bullshit and then trancing out… I remember how it was like every day was Mission Impossible trying to keep the rules or not get caught and just … survive.”
Although my mother never beat me, I remember similar things happening to other kids in our little cult group. Other news reports (not specified in the article I read) “also have leveled criticism at Gothard’s methods with allegations of corporal punishment and solitary confinement at a training center, and adherence ot a divine order that places men over women.” I really sympathize with Murray on this one. I really feel bad for him. I know that’s not the politically correct thing to say, but I don’t care.
This kind of child abuse has got to be put to a stop. I don’t know how, but it’s just not right to allow children to be put through the kind of mental torture that may haunt them for the rest of their lives. And it’s not right to ignore this just because people are in mourning. Now, when it’s in the forefront of people’s minds, is when it is time to call attention to this travesty.
Signing off for the rest of the year. Happy Holidays and I’ll see you all in 2008! Remember the true reason for the season.