Losing my Religion

I met with a friend a few months back who is an escapee from a spiritually abusive church. I enquired how she felt about reading the bible (as her new church was conducting something of a "read the bible" campaign), and she said very the thought of it made her feel like vomiting.

This didn't sound terribly like the loving and gentle invitation of the Spirit to me.

I asked my friend what kinds of activities seemed to nourish her soul. She said reading a novel by a fireplace was her best soul food. So I suggested she do that regularly... and to take a moment of conscious gratitude each day.

I spoke with her again last night, and she feels like her soul is beginning to heal. I encouraged her to continue to learn to live in grace.

People who have experienced spiritual abuse seem to have a strong need to detox from religion. Indeed, it seems to me that Jesus wasn't a particularly religious character... the people who seemed most upset by him were the most earnestly religious of his day. Anyone who aspires to be like Jesus might also need to learn to be a little less religious and a lot more Christ-like.

Sometimes we develop habits of thought and practice in life that are helpful and life-giving. Sometimes we develop habits of thought that destroy our wellbeing, and we need to change them. Sometimes we develop a highly religious image of God: the harsh taskmaster, the legalist, the stern judge. This image needs replacing with the image of Jesus... the Jesus who invites us into life and love and laughter and grace. When this image of Jesus is firmly in our heads and hearts, then his invitation brings a joyful response. If this Jesus invited us to engage with him through the bible and prayer, it would be our joy to say yes. If the stern God demanded religious duty, this would do no good for our soul.

So my friend is losing her old religion and regaining her soul. Have you ever needed to lose religion? And what have you found?

Comments

Amanda Morrice said…
Hi Janet. Can really identify with your friend. I found it difficult to pick up a Bible for a while too, until I had to do it at college. Now I really enjoy it!

I still cannot take communion (which looks a little awkward in service).

What I gained most from leaving a toxic church was a better relationship with God. It was like getting all the static off the line - so much clearer. I also found it much easier to grow.

I am now in a church which leaves me feeling uplifted and loved after services. I guess that is what a church should be like!
Janet Woodlock said…
"Uplifted and loved"... that sounds more like an encounter with the Spirit than guilty and condemned!

I'm so glad you have been able to lose your (toxic) religion and find life in God. "I have come that they might have life... and have it abundantly"...
I was raised in the Pentecostal church. Many members in my extended family are still Pentecostal, and I mean the 4-H Pentecostals...Hair, Hose, Hems and Helevision. Some of us who "got out" still have some baggage. But as far as I know they are working through it nicely.
I have learned through the years that "religion" is a bad thing. It's all about relationship with Christ. The best way I've found to get to know the Lord is the Bible...that and talking to Him.
~M

PS to Amanda above...I don't take communion either, and probably won't. As I see it, when Jesus died and the veil was torn into, Jesus became my Communion.
Janet Woodlock said…
Glad you popped by Brown Recluse...
interesting to hear your story.

I tend toward the view whenever you are sharing a meal with others (with thankfulness) that's closer to the biblical view of communion than the bit of wafer with the priest... but I'm able to do both personally with an easy conscience.

I've been thinking I must work on my writing a bit more (the rubbish updates I post on Facebook don't count!!!) Thanks for the reminder of this blog! (I get email updates)

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