Church that is controlling and thought policing

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Dinah-sore

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Church that is controlling and thought policing
« on: June 27, 2019, 02:12:17 AM »
Hi guys!

I wanted to come and share and see if any of you have had similar experiences. I am a Christian, and I love the Bible. My whole life basically revolves around the church because my husband works for a church/christian school. One of the things I have noticed as I have come Out of the FOG are "red flags" of abuse and manipulation. My church is pretty traditional. And for my entire adult life I have just believed everything taught from the pulpit. Then a few years ago, I began to change my beliefs about eschatology. I had to hide my new beliefs because they are not allowed at my church. Then last year I changed my mind about alcohol. I had to hide those beliefs because they are not allowed at my church. So, as long as I hide my beliefs everything may seem fine.

But I notice a lot of nitpicking behavior. A lot of people poking their noses into our life and "sin-sniffing" and judging. Mostly my kids, because I don't force them to be "fake" and "perfect" all the time. Now I don't allow rude behavior, but they are allowed to listen to secular music and watch secular TV, and many families don't allow that.

But this weekend at church I heard a sermon about a controversial topic. I had recently listened to a YouTube sermon that presented the other argument to this topic in such a clear, bible loving way (without manipulation). But Sunday, my pastor presented the same topic, from the traditional view and he used a lot of "us/them," fear based, scapegoating, manipulation. He literally said that anyone who disagrees with him is "naive" and "does not respect the scriptures." He then went on to characterize a whole group of people as evil, as the church sat and clapped. Toward the end he countered a hypothetical argument of "don't people have a right to choose how they live?" with the answer of "People do not have the right to be themselves."

I have no problem with people having different opinions on this issue. In fact, at this point I don't know where I stand, because I see good points on both sides of the issue. But my main problem is with the manipulation, the coercion, the name calling, the ostracizing, and the lack of focusing on how much God loves people. I did not see the gospel, but rather I saw abuse. This topic has nothing to do with my life, but I care about the people who it does pertain to.

I do not like living in a world where I have to hide what I believe or might be questioning, because I will get called names and scolded if I just allow myself to use my brain. Because my DH works there I am not free to explore other churches. Do you know of any forums or chat rooms for Christians who are coming out of legalism or controlling or abusive churches. ***I don't think my church means to be abusive (I think they believe they are helping people), but when you say things like this it is emotional abuse. When you force people to pretend to agree with you or else they will stop loving you, you create robots. I am too old to live the rest of my life as a robot. I need to talk about this. <3 Thank you all. <3
"I had to accept the fact that, look, this is who I am. I have to be who I am, and all of us have a right to be who we are. And whenever we submit our will, because our will is a gift, our will is given to us, whenever we submit our will to someone else's opinion a part of us dies." --Lauryn Hill

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Julian R

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Re: Church that is controlling and thought policing
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2019, 11:58:35 AM »
Hello Dinah.  I am sorry to hear of your difficulties with church life at the moment but at the same time thankful that you have the discernment and maturity to be able to identify some of what is going wrong and to draw your own conclusions from a biblical and gospel focused perspective.

I have some understanding of what you are experiencing.  I come from a church constituency that may have some similarities and have in the past been in at least one which veered towards legalism and a degree of manipulation but to nowhere near the degree or intensity that you describe.  Fortunately I was able to change and now attend a church which remains quite conservative/traditional in many ways but where the atmosphere and ethos is not legalistic or judgemental.  There is a freedom to ask difficult questions and to work through them in a non-judgemental way, recognising the complexities of issues and respecting the fact that there can be differences of opinions.  We try to encourage transparency about the struggles people face and to help each other progress using honestly clothed with grace and mercy.(We are by no means perfect either ..)

Unfortunately I don't know of any forums that might be able to help you.  We can talk further here if you wish.  I think the danger with those church institutions that have become legalistic is that they kind of encourage an authoritarian form of leadership that easily veers towards manipulation and even abuse.  My reading of the New Testament is that church leaders should be servant hearted and humble. Pride reinforced by dogmatic inflexible interpretations of the Bible is a bit of a dangerous mix.

I can understand your discomfort and concern as your own convictions move away from those upheld so rigidly by your church.  That must be so difficult, especially as leaving appears not to be a realistic option.  It is hard to know what to advise, except to do as you are already, feeding your faith through other sources as well as the church you attend.  I agree it is a very hard place to be when you have to put up an appearance of conforming when in reality you no longer do so, as you say you are not a robot and that should not be expected of you.

I wonder if below the surface there are others in the church who think and feel the way you do.  I guess it is hard to know.

Anyway, not sure I have helped much, but happy to continue the conversation if you wish ...

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SonofThunder

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Re: Church that is controlling and thought policing
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2019, 12:42:00 PM »
Hello Dinah,

I 100% know exactly what you are experiencing and accepted it for a long time, but have now found a path with Christ, that i am very pleased to walk down and i feel that Christ led me directly to this path.  I am a Christian. Raised in a home with a NPD father and caretaking mother.  ‘Religion’ was drilled into us in our home yet the other 6 days a week, my NPD father was emotional hell to live with. 

I walked away from the denominational institutionalized ‘church’ about 10 years ago when pastors at my church were very controlling and focused on numbers.  Christ led me into the real church (body of Christ believers in the world) after a brief hiatus and a lot of soul searching.

I want to recommend to you a great little book written by a 30yr pastor who was manipulated out of his job and had an awakening of sorts by Christ.  The book is called “So You Dont Want to Go to Church Anymore” by Wayne Jacobsen.  Its actually a fictional story about a man and his experiences after leaving ‘religion’ and finding the ‘church’ and very well written and I think you will find it to be uplifting and something that may be a spark and encouragement  to you in your journey.   

Understand the author is a well known person because of his involvement in the book ‘The Shack’, which was made into a movie (book is excellent).  Wayne (and the Shack book) took a lot of heat from pastors as being ‘heresy’ but Wayne graciously reminds everyone that The Shack is a fictional story and never intended to be non-fiction.  But, a LOT of people have found The Shack to be a life changing read.   I tell you this only because Wayne is a very balanced and Christ-loving person, who recognized that all humans have value as they are made by Christ and that he takes the Bible to a whole new level of understanding for me.  In fact, he has a series called ‘The Jesus Lens’ that is spectacular in its understanding of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, truth, love and how the Bible is a continuous and developing story. 

If you do read it, please come back to this thread and possibly tie in your opinions to your negative and manipulative experiences at your church, that you started this thread with.   I will pray for your continued discovery! 

SoT
« Last Edit: June 27, 2019, 12:44:22 PM by SonofThunder »
Proverbs 17:1
A meal of bread and water in contented peace is better than a banquet spiced with quarrels.

2 Timothy 1:7
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

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Cascade

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Re: Church that is controlling and thought policing
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2019, 01:06:34 PM »
I went to a legalistic church from the age of seven to fifteen, and even after that I went to a semi-legalistic church for another ten years or so. On top of that I have a legalistic sister and bro-in-law that I have been judged by. It must be hard to have to hide so many of your opinions and thoughts on theology and what you believe. I too have changed what I believe and have realized that I was pretty judgmental myself when I was young, no doubt from having grown up in such a church.

 Even if you are unable to change churches maybe you could find healthier Christians to fellowship with outside of your church, like if you volunteered for a Christian charity or something like that.

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Sojourner17

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Re: Church that is controlling and thought policing
« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2019, 05:41:28 PM »
Hi Dinah,

I grew up in a fairly legalistic church that basically taught that they were the only ones who were right and everyone was wrong.  It was a hard thing to grow up under. We were taught to never question the narrative /the elder ship were always right, they were the only true Christians. 

As I got older I did not believe this and my search began.  My hubby and I no longer attend a brick and mortar church but are very much believers who love the Lord and want to follow Gods word. 

When I started learning about narcissism I stumbled upon a blog by a fairly conservative Christian...I have NO IDEA what denomination he comes from but his blog has been so helpful.  It is: https://graceformyheart.wordpress.com/

I also follow a YouTube ministry called Without Spot or Blemish. 

I’m not saying I agree with everything either have to say (for the most part I do) but these two resources have helped me tremendously in my situation.
I don’t know what to say regarding your personal situation. Fortunately for me my hubby and I are of one accord regarding the path we have chosen.... even though we come from very different cultural and denominational backgrounds.

I pray that as you walk out your faith and take your situation to the Lord that things will work themselves out.
"Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it..." - Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

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TriedTooHard

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Re: Church that is controlling and thought policing
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2019, 01:39:31 PM »
My apologies if this is too strong a reaction to your issue, but if I were you, I would quietly get out while you can.  I had similar feelings and issues many many years ago in the strict church I was encouraged to attend by my uNPD FOO.  I stuffed it down for years, only to realize later on that someone very close to me was being molested by a member of that church.  This person chose to remain anonymous for many years, that's when I quietly started detaching.  Then, when others came forward, a legal case was developed, and I was asked to be a witness. 

https://www.Recoveringfromreligion.org was extremely helpful and supportive during that period.  A lot of them are former members of clergy, and all understand the need for privacy.  In the end, I chose my own path - didn't become an atheist, but have decided to cut out the "middle man" (church) for now.  I may try to find a church that is a better fit when I have more time on my hands and am done raising my child, so whatever decisions and beliefs I choose will only affect me, and not my FOC.