During a course on religion at Monash university I was in a tutorial with a number of religious folks. One was a Buddhist, another was a lapsed Christian who saw Bible stories on the same level as Dreamtime stories. The Buddhist and the tutor, an Anglican of understanding had more peace than some. One had worked in a Methodist mission. She reported some stories of work place abuse. In His book Repenting of Religion, Gregory Boyd notes that the most judgmental attitudes towards Christians are likely to come from fellow Christians. He states that if we are living from a Christian version of the knowledge of good and evil, then this is an expected outcome. He’s right about that. This is a sure way to judge ourselves and pick at others. I joked once to a pastor with a good sense of humour that we both belonged to a religious community that was a form of abuse. He knew what I was talking about. So do some I know who presently employed in its ‘wards’ of spiritually ill people. These wards are not places where people are healed. They are places where employees are criticised and judged because the inmates of the institution live from a basis of judgement: The Law. The core of you is your core belief. SPIRITUAL ABUSE Since then I have read books with titles like, ‘Escaping From Spiritual Abuse.’ The experience in my community was not like some I read about where people were continually manipulated and controlled. The abuse here was more subtle coming from a gospel that was no gospel at all. A hybrid gospel of old and new covenant mixture that generated spiritual malnutrition claiming sola scriptura. There is a religious culture that grows from the soil of the law that is a weeds, thorns and briars. Its cause is separation from God and the human attempt to manufacture righteousness – a part of which consists in criticising others, particularly those who multiply the clear life of Jesus. Some families have a history of condemning people with a better character than themselves. So do some denominations and churches. It is this spirit – the spirit of anti-christ that put Jesus to death. It pits itself like a viper against all who multiply the genuine life of God and actually advertises death as a way of life. We are talking the death of the spirit and the suffocation of the soul, along with the decay of the mind. And with this the gradual onset of spiritual blindness caused by the cataracts of adherence to non-Kingdom doctrines purporting to be revelation and truth. Such poison is not monopolised by fundamentalist sects alone. Distorted teachings have seeped their way into the body of Christ like the poison that infects communities from the polluted earth of past industrial sites. Sites where people find themselves suffering from cancers and debilitating diseases of the soul and the spirit. Jeff Turner writes of His extrication from distorted ideas at the hand of the Spirit of Christ. A FIRE THAT THAT BURNS UP VEILS AND MYTHS “Over the course of a decade plus, I found all of my cherished, but lethal beliefs being burned up like chaff by the blazing heat of the Father’s love. Before there even was such a thing as a “Grace movement”, I began to encounter a God who was gracious, compassionate, kind and more loving than I’d ever dared to dream. When the reality of His love met my angry God theology, something had to give, and it wasn’t going to be on His end. It was a season of great upheaval and uprooting in my life. The religious abuse and depression I’d become so accustomed to living with was slowly being chipped away at, and I simply could not exist that way any longer. I had to learn a new way of living, and it wasn’t easy.” (1) [ Grace is not an excuse that allows us to remain in long-held bad teaching and ‘other gospels.’ Grace leads to truth and truth leads to love, liberty and joy.] Not everyone has an angry god theology. Many have an austere god theology and some have a demanding god theology that rubs off in the manner in which they treat themselves, their families and their employees. The law does not nurture people in grace and truth. It perpetuates religious fictions and a spirit of judgment. Judgment that becomes a culture of criticism and denial of personal responsibility. PURE IN HEART If we are really followers of Jesus we will not Have a divided loyalty and will not pump up false doctrine because that is where our identity lies. We will not be like the climate change denier who ignores the truth for the sake of the investment class and the false comfort of what has always been believed. We will advance with Jesus into the truth that sets people free when we decide His identity is more important than a self-made one. The pure in heart see God and deliver others from the bondage of truth disguised as lies.
(1) Turner, Jeff. Saints in the Arms of a Happy God: Recovering the Image of God and Man (pp. 10-11). Jeff Turner. Kindle Edition.