UnHitched

 

“If you leave me, you’re worthless.” “No matter how hard you try to be good, you’ll never be good enough.” “Don’t be proud of any of your accomplishments. If not for me, you’d be a nobody.” “You have to put me first, before anything or anyone else.” “If you don’t marry me, I will be forced to kill you.”

Hmmmm, sounds like somebody needs a boot in their butt. Oh, wait…no…that’s the Holy Bible speaking to me about my “personal relationship” with Jesus. That makes it okay…I guess???

It wasn’t long after I left religion that I noticed the striking similarities between Christian messages and the language used by emotionally abusive spouses. Perhaps the correlation is clearest in the Old Testament, where God often berates his people for idolatry by calling them whores, prostitutes, and cheating wives. The punishment for their unfaithfulness includes verbiage that is clearly rooted in rape culture. “I will lift your skirts over your face, and I will let nations look on your nakedness and kingdoms on your shame.” (Nahum 3:5-6) “This is why you have been stripped and raped by invading armies.” (Jeremiah 13:22)  “I will strip you and expose you to shame.” (Jeremiah 13:26) “You spread your legs to every passerby, to multiply your harlotry.” (Ezekiel 16:25)

OT God refers to himself, time and time again, as jealous. Safe Place (Freedom from Violence) lists jealousy as the number one trait common to abusive relationships. At the beginning of a relationship, an abusive person will always say that jealousy is a sign of love. Jealousy has nothing to do with love; it’s a sign of possessiveness and lack of trust.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states: Abuse may begin with behaviors that may easily be dismissed or downplayed such as name-calling, threats, possessiveness, or distrust.

Threatening to harm the partner, or the partner’s children or animals is also on the list. Throughout the Old Testament, we read countless stories in which God is guilty of all of these.

While more insidious, the messages of “worthless, filthy bride” and “dangerous, powerful fiancé” continue into the New Testament. In fact, if we take a step back from the flowery and hopeful context in which contemporary churches frame Christian messages, we can see in them the precise tactics of abusers who manipulate, demean, and control their partners. In my book Love over Religion, I demonstrate how various Bible verses are congruent with specific strategies of emotional abusers. Rather than doing the same here, I’ll take an opposite approach and examine the traits common to the abused. Online research generated this list of traits that abusers seek when choosing their partners:

Low self-esteem.

Financial and emotional dependence.

Blaming yourself.

Social isolation.

Submissive.

Excessively tolerant.

Lack of motivation.

The first six of these seven traits are not only compatible with Christianity, but they are demanded of it. A prominent Christian message is that we are sinners, wretched and stained. Before we can accept Jesus into our hearts (and become his faithful bride) we need to admit we are broken and in need of a savior. In other words, we must have low self-esteem and confess our sins (i.e. blame ourselves). We learn that God should guide our choices, our thoughts, and even our money management. We are then told to live apart from sinners, in a rare form of social isolation. We are no longer a part of this world, we are taught, but a part of God’s special kingdom here on Earth. (Which, oddly,  still looks exactly like this world.) God commands that we submit to his will in all things. And in no uncertain terms, Jesus asks us to be excessively tolerant of any life change that might ensue from following him, to willingly abandon our families, our riches, or our very lives.

As for the seventh trait, lack of motivation, I can only share my personal story and welcome yours in the comments. Christianity muffled my freedom to choose and to think for myself. It inhibited my desire to live among and learn from different people and cultures. It told me to be ashamed of myself and my past, and prevented me from moving confidently and courageously towards my personal goals. After all of that was gone, I experienced a very acute lack of motivation that affected me for almost a decade. I slowly watched my social life, my energy, my health, and my finances dwindle. I cared less and less about my personal appearance and making healthy choices when it came to nutrition and exercise. I refused the companionship of friends and potential partners. I felt that I didn’t deserve anything at all, so I had to be content with whatever I had. Even my sense of humor faded, as I constantly worried I would make a comment God wouldn’t condone. It sounds silly now that I’m unhitched, but I experienced many of the hallmark emotions of psychological abuse during my relationship with Jesus.

Trust me when I say I don’t condone violence, unless it’s figurative. Aaaaand hilarious. So take a quick peek at the Dixie Chicks, as they murder Earl with black-eyed peas. Then I invite you to do some self-reflection. If you’re feeling ready to be liberated, it may be time to find a posse of your own who can help you walk out on that abusive relationship. If you’ve already strapped on those walking boots, and you’re living free from the emotional abuse of religion, it may be your turn to cook black-eyed peas for someone else. You can do this by proudly and confidently standing for secular truths, by financially supporting entities that work towards freedom from religion, or by simply participating in the conversation.

United, our voices can form the foundation of a radical new dawn, a future in which society renounces the oppression of myth, a time when reason triumphs over religion, and we are free.

 

37 thoughts on “UnHitched

  1. I’ve made the same analogy before. Don’t leave or I’ll beat the shit out of you is a whole lot like leave and you’ll end up in hell. Having experienced and left an abusive relationship as well as leaving the faith, the feelings there are fairly close as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m not glad that happened to you, but I’m glad I’m not the one who sees the connection. To me, it seems some personality types are easy victims for the covert manipulative messages in religion. I know, due to many things that happened in my past, that I was one of them. Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. A recent hit in the Christian klove radio waves was “more like falling in love”. Deconversion is more like signing divorce papers, with a lot of the same feelings and emotions.

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  3. I understand the dark overtones of these passages, but the prophets have been taken out of context. They called for those who torture and kill to be tortured and killed, as justice requires. Moreover, this tit-for-tat conception of justice is largely replaced in the New Testament by a mandate of love and mercy.

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    1. But there are countless scriptures in which God commands the killing of people who haven’t killed or tortured anyone. In fact, he commands killing of anyone who believes in a different god, to the degree that commands his followers to kill their own children if they disobey. He also commands his followers to strike down infants and children when they attack, with no mercy on anyone. This is not a god of love.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. And that mandate of love includes destroying all the non believers when he comes back. Many of you are praying for god to come and wipe us out and dish out vengeance for you. The roots of the religion is divisive and hurtful to us that don’t believe in him. Christianity has fought social equality at every turn. If it wasn’t for the humanist drive for equality we’d go nowhere in human rights. And they’ve fought the advance of science to the point of imprisoning those that contradicted religious dogma. Hardly sounds like a religion of love to me.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Well at least we made it one more day without being destroyed. Imagine being a believer that was unrepentant and having that reveal your true worth from the other disciples of Jesus. What a mean bunch of pricks. Where does that come from? Oh I forgot. The scripture.

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      3. What you are seeing in those passages is a loving God who has become very angry, just as a loving mother or a loving king can also become very angry. He is angry because those who turn away and worship other gods are abandoning life itself. Thus in some sense, the execution of idolaters is redundant; they are already dead. I would also point out that killing and torturing need not be physical. It can be economic or psychological, and it can be perpetrated at an institutional level as well as an individual level.

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      4. Sounds demonic, to me. A “god” filled with enough rage to kill, or torture someone psychologically is a god you would choose, voluntarily, to worship? Not I. And when you say idolaters are already dead, it scares me. It proves my point that followers of religion see nonbelievers as worthless beings that are fine to torture, discriminate against, or harm in any way. “Their suffering doesn’t matter. They are already dead.” I hope readers take note of the Christian mentality that is so disturbing to me.

        Liked by 3 people

      5. On the contrary, the Eastern Orthodox go so far as to beseech God to deliver the damned from hell. The suffering of every conscious creature matters a great deal to me. It is false to reduce the Christian concept of God to that found in the minor prophets.

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      6. I would not say that the suffering of non-believers or their death is insignificant. Rather, since the Christian conception of God includes the notion of being the source of existence and flourishing, those who replace God with something else choose to separate themselves from existence and flourishing.

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      7. If “existence and flourishing” includes supporting a god who would, in your words, psychologically and economically torture people, then I wholeheartedly reject that in my life. My existence and flourishing involves supporting only good for others as well as myself, and rejecting cruelty. Feel free to reply, but I’m off to work for now. Thanks for commenting!

        Liked by 2 people

      8. Danica, have you noticed that depending on which theist or Christian you speak with the Goal-posts are HIGHLY mobile and flexible; able to bend and contort to whatever degree is necessary to maintain a “perfect, beautiful, loving, forgiving, etc, etc, ad nauseum God/Savior”? I guess we are expected to just ignore all the other contrasting opposing passages in the 4th-century CE canonical bible, huh? 🤔😨 Why don’t they just CHUNK all the stuff (passages, OT?) that confuse everyone!? LOL Btw, that’s a rhetorical question. 😉

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      9. It’s called being “excessively tolerant” and it’s a trait of the emotionally abused. I honestly believe it is. I have read the most unbelievable excuses for OT passages. One I hear most often is that when a person slays thousands of people in the Bible, it’s just God showing us how we can overcome incredible obstacles. No one seems to find it concerning that he is displaying his power through mass murder. Truthfully, even if those stories are metaphors, they are unacceptable. I wouldn’t talk about a current mass shooting in a positive light, or teach my child to overcome obstacles with a story of a small person killing a big person.

        Anyway, when I cite the OT here on my blog, you will notice there is always someone who jumps in to tell me how mistaken I am. It’s always a metaphor, and I’m ALWAYS misinterpreting the verse or taking it out of context. Conveniently, when Christians want to use the OT to defend an outdated and discriminatory stance on sociopolitical events, it is never a metaphor. It’s the infallible Word of God and is to be taken literally. As an outsider, it’s actually scary sometimes, to witness such disconnect and such an uncanny desire to make something “loving” out of things like torture, genocide, vulgar speech, and abusive behavior.

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      10. Hi angloaristotelian.

        I have found in my 5-decades of life — which includes living on 4 of the 6 other inhabitable continents & their cultures — that MY “suffering” (as you’ve framed it) and deaths I’ve been around (and intimate with) is not so different, if at all, than those of “Christians.” And 47 of those years have been secular while 7-8 of them were as a hardcore Christian in church ministry and with 3.5 years of seminary. It is glarinly obvious to me — and many of my lifetime friends agree — that my BEST “flourishing existence” has been the non-religious years, hands down. The primary reason for this?

        I am much more accountable for myself, my life, my actions, behavior and words, AND I’m much more empowered because I don’t have a Proxy(?) standing in for me! The word liberation doesn’t even come close to describing my very happy, very fulfilling secular lifestyle! 🙂

        Warm regards to you angloaristotelian.

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      11. Sorry angloaristotelian, at Danica’s request this is the corrected reply from me.

        +++++++++++++++++++++

        Well, I thought I essentially (generally?) answered that in my above comment, but I’m happy to elaborate further.

        Less accountable? I needed (as well as the entire world needs) a Savior that thru his blood has done everything necessary to assure my ‘ticket’ into eternal life with God. See Psalm 51:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 1:18–25; 3:9–23; 7:18; 1 John 1:8–10 and many, many other supporting passages that I can quote.

        Less empowered? Pure faith… not in myself or in any “works” I might passionately do, but FAITH in an elusive, mysterious, incomprehensible God and Holy Spirit that can apparently be known well thru Scripture. Oh…and tangibly a church/bride that is/was horribly unreliable, flaky with Scripture, and judgmental. See Ephesians 2:8-10; John 6:37; Exodus 33:19; Psalm 116:5; Romans 4; 1 Peter 1:10–12 and many, many other supporting passages that I can quote.

        Thanks angloaristotelian for your question. Hope your evening is going well. 🙂

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      12. Thank you for your thoughtful response. Since you were a minister, you can also testify that getting one’s ticket to heaven is the most elementary of teachings beyond which all the faithful must move quickly. Moreover, St. Thomas Aquinas makes it clear that faith is the tool of a person who does not yet possess the ability to understand the truth by his powers of reason. That is to say, we are expected to move beyond faith.

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      13. I was not a minister per se, but a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with a core focus in biblical Christian counseling/therapy inside secular psych/A&D inpatient clinics.

        …we are expected to move beyond faith.

        Yes, Paul does indeed speak about grade-levels of Believers. See 1 Cor. 3 about milk and meat, or spiritual gnosis vs. worldly wisdom. The author of Hebrews writes “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (5:14).

        I have some initial personal issues with this. Doesn’t that mean that grace and salvation are proportional to human behavior/works? IOW, there would be different levels of spiritual-divine rewards not only here on Earth, but it stands to reason that the same various levels of rewards would exist in heaven too. Yet, this runs opposed to many other Scriptural passages and their exegesis about once saved, always saved. In other words, this Abrahamic “God” predestines who will be elected thru grace (despite any Earthly mess-ups) and who won’t and how. And the mere fact that most of the Church (if not all of it) is clearly divided on these theological conundrums, as is reflected by the majority of church-members everywhere, and lazily choose to stay on milk, or baby-formula. 😉

        Is this rampant epidemic of complacency on spiritual baby-formula a reflection of the God that created all of this? And I do realize that these questions open up several other cans of worms. LOL The confusion is honestly never-ending thanks to the amputated 4th-century CE Canonical Bible! A convoluted mess is putting it mildly. 🤣

        Btw angloaristotelian, you don’t have to answer any of these questions if you don’t want to — it took me 11+ years to sort it all out. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      14. @Dancia (or whomever else wishes to respond)

        Any text of some level of complexity is going to create disagreement/debate/discussion about interpretation depending on people’s reading ability, critical thinking skills, willingness to see different perspectives, and what baggage they bring with them. This is true of completely secular literary texts as well. Otherwise, we would all just read the same texts and come to exactly the same conclusions, with no discussion or debate needed, which hardly ever happens.

        For example, I wrote a paper on Herman Melville’s “Benito Cerino” in graduate school. Some scholars argued that it is all about slavery and that it representss Melville’s attempt to address the slavery issue, challenge the various stereotypical ways African Americans and slaves were being represented in the fiction of his time (in both Northern and Southern Literature), and challenge the whitewashing of African American history through its imagery and events, while the New Critic Ivor Winters argues that while superficially the plot is about slavery and a slave rebellion, it’s really not about slavery at all, but an allegory about the nature of evil and many of the story’s elements should be read in an allegorical light. My paper was a synthesis of both perspectives. I felt the story was clearly addressing many of the issues about slavery and how African Americans and their history have been incorrectly presented, but also was an allegory about the nature of evil (by showing how slavery is one of the ultimate representations of evil!).

        The Bible, likewise, is a complicated text, which lends itself to many different meanings and interpretations. Nevermind, it also has a specialized status among many faith groups that can distort it further. Often people coming at it without any real literary training (many theists, but also many atheists as well) don’t really know how to read it well and don’t know what to make of certain narrative tropes.

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      15. I completely agree, when it comes to reading the Bible as myth. It is full of interesting anecdotes, tropes, concepts, action and adventure, joy, angst, and cautionary tales. When read as a text that paints a picture of how god has been viewed, through two faiths during one segment of history, it can impart valuable lessons, as well, the way we can learn from the tragedies in history, etc. My only issue with the Bible is that the stories within it are taken literally by many, as a reliable reference book on which to base life decisions and control the freedoms of others. If this were not the case, my conversations around it would be like those I’ve enjoyed regarding the tales of Gilgamesh, or Greek mythology, or the Egyptian gods and pharoes. Certainly we can derive “moral truths” from any story at all, if we twist and turn it to meet our needs. For instance, I could say that the Friday the 13th movies teach valuable lessons about not teasing those who are different, not engaging in dangerous activities, not trusting strangers who won’t reveal their true nature to you. Struggling to extract a seed of morality from a work that is full of dark undertones is a common practice in every culture. (Think fairy tales.) The nature of my stance against the Bible circles only around those who wish to sew those seeds as universal truths. Thanks for the comment!

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      16. I understand where you’re coming from on Biblical literalism and proselytization and the danger of buying into stories like this as universal truth. Although I would add there are plenty of people in most religious traditions that are non-literal.

        I would add as a side note that in literature, bible or otherwise, the point isn’t only the meaning or “moral.” It’s also the aesthetics (the how) and the creativity put into the “how” something is constructed and made. What makes Shakespeare interesting isn’t just the point of what he has to say (“hey, you’re getting old, you’re beauty won’t last, so maybe you should get with me”), but how he says it.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Danica, while you and other women rightly continue to speak out and say NO to abuse and sexual harassment/disrespect, us (silent?) men have an equal responsibility that has been neglected for way, WAY too long. First, I’d like to share a fantastic and poignant video that demonstrates that violence, abuse, and sexual disrespect (racism as well) is TAUGHT, not inherent.

    My next video — I’m putting in a below comment for URL spamming triggers in WordPress comments — is for GOOD MEN to step in and stop harassment, disrespect, abuse, etc, when it is obviously going awry. Please watch it as well.

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    1. Men, all you have to first do is to ask the lady “Ma’am, is everything okay here?” And do NOT leave until you are 100% certain that she confirms she is in control of the situation and herself. If she says she’s fine(?), it might even be wise to keep them in your sight so you, and anyone else too, can intervene if necessary. 🙂

      P.S. Danica, I think you are spot-on about the MALE culture the Bible teaches, especially the Old Testament! This has to change. And I loudly applaud you for being one of those voices against this disgraceful, taught brainwashing and behavior! BRAVO!!! 🙂 ❤

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  5. Great post. I had thought that having been raised religion-free was the reason I noticed that parallel when I read the Bible in high school; it’s good to know that people raised in the faith can, at least sometimes, see it too. Certainly the believers I shared my insight with were not…
    Like other classic abusers, God has eyes on you all the time, is friends with the cops- there’s no getting away from Him. And he tells you a lot of things that are obviously untrue, but who are you going to believe, Him or your own lying eyes?

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    1. Absolutely! Especially since you’re “such a bad person.” It makes it hard to trust your own judgment when you’re told that everything you think, feel, and believe might just be “the devil” trying to trick you. It’s exactly like gaslighting, which I didn’t dive into here, but just might one of these weekends. 🙂 Thanks so much for commenting, and welcome to Love over Religion!

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