Monday, July 2, 2007

The Spritually Abused and the OHM

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17

Please do not misunderstand the title of this blog. There are certainly times to question and confront pastors in a way consistent with the Fourth Commandment.
In fact, we are commanded to do so, especially husbands and fathers, as the heads of our respective households.

In the late 1990's, my wife and I were manipulated and spiritually abused by our 'Lutheran' pastor who would scream threats from the pulpit that if anyone questioned whether the Holy Spirit was speaking through him, that the 'Angel of Death' would come for us and our children. At times he could be winsome and funny, but other times he would flip some switch and then tears would roll down his face and words flow out of his mouth that made him sound like a prophet.

There is a
violation involved in spiritual abuse that is much like child abuse. Spiritual fathers are not supposed to use and abuse the souls that have been entrusted to them. It is embarrassing to admit that I fell for such things back then, but I did. Christians who have not been taught to discern, through biblical catechesis, are 'tossed this way and that by every wind of doctrine' and are, more often than not, vulnerable to such deception.

When people, by God's grace, escape toxic, abusive faith systems -- churches or groups that they had assumed were Christian because they bore or used the name of Jesus -- then these dear refugees might very well be filled with fear and/or anger at the mere suggestion that pastors be honored. Yeah,

There are quite a few books today about spiritual abuse, but most of them have therapeutic or self-help approaches to recovery that are not principally catechetical. There might be much truth and helpful advice, but good law & Gospel preaching, life-giving catechesis, and the right administration of the sacraments are not identified as the chief antidote to the spiritual wounds and despair that the abused carry with them.

In fact, if one reads online forums for the spiritual abused, there is often a great deal of anger or contempt toward 'organized religion' which makes it very difficult to speak to the abused about, for example, the need for the office of holy ministry. Those who do not completely leave the church often end up in home churches or fellowship groups that have no formally trained and ordained clergy and where they might just encounter more weirdness or perhaps even more abuse. The Who's Won't Get Fool Again comes to mind: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

As far as I know, there are no books that gently introduce Reformation theology as 'a balm in Gilead' to this particular hurting and hidden audience. To Christians who have been abused by individuals within the office of holy ministry, such a book could show, in part, that the OHM is a good gift from God, one that can and should bring healing and forgiveness to them. I am convinced that such a book is needed today.

To those readers who might have that fear and/or anger towards pastors that I mentioned earlier, let me say this: I know that many men within the ranks of the office of holy ministry have let
parishioners down or even used them to their own selfish ends. I know that spiritual abuse occurs, for I have experienced it myself. But the abuse of something does not invalidate its proper use, and the office of holy ministry is a great and wonderful gift of God to all of us, through which Christ can bring us his healing and forgiveness.

"A bruised reed He will not break and
a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish."
Isaiah 42:3

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Over the past 10 years our pastor has repeatedly verbally abused our confirmation students by yelling at them, threatening them with public humiliation, running them down and even making sexually inappropriate comments about the female students. He has also made sexually inappropriate comments about various women in the church, talked badly behind the backs of many members and basically divided our church and driven so many members away. There are many more ugly details. We have tried to take correct procedures in handling this. Our pastor is unrepentant and there seems to be nothing that can be done. We have started worshiping elsewhere but it is an extremely painful situation.