Below is a recent article posted by one commentator
A church horror story
Q. I've been curious about what your take on my current situation would be. My family has been attending a new church for about ten months. We don't agree with some of the pastor's teachings (I've been down the "works" path and refuse to go back) but we are there mainly to give our children a church family as they have many friends in our homeschooling community who go to that church. I feel I get my spiritual nourishment from many different places and I didn't have a problem not getting "fed" at "church" so to speak.
Well, a few months ago during a camping trip it came out that I didn't agree with everything the pastor said. I tried to downplay it because this is a small, close knit church. I knew from my past church experiences that there was no sense in expressing my differences to church leadership because they would not change. They worship their pastor and believe what he says is not to be questioned.
After Bible study Wednesday night the pastor asked me to stay behind and everyone left. There was just the pastor, another man and me (my husband was not there that night). The pastor told me that I needed to decide if he was going to be my spiritual teacher. He used Hebrews 13:17 to tell me that I needed to obey him -- that even if I disagreed with him I needed to trust him. And if I did disagree, I needed to be quiet about it.
A couple of weeks earlier he had given a sermon (directed at me) about how there was someone in the group who didn't agree with what was being taught and who was causing problems. He said that "this person" needs to repent.
Responding to his interrogation on Wedensday night, I told the pastor I really didn't look at him as my spiritual mentor, although I loved and respected him and his walk with the Lord. I didn't say anything negative. I told him I didn't think it was a problem for people to discuss what they believe or discuss other scriptural viewpoints -- because "iron sharpens iron." But he made it very clear that Hebrews 13:17 commands me to come "under him" and to be quiet. He said that he does not want division in his church. He also advised me to stop listening to sermons from other pastors and teachers so that I wouldn't get confused. I told him I didn't feel confused at all. God is HUGE to me and doesn't fit into any box. I love what God is doing in everyone's life and I love learning and growing. I don't want to be limited to one man's teaching.
I wasn't hurt by what he said, though it was painful to sit there -- he was a coward in my book to not talk to my husband and me together. I was, however, hurt by how the people in the church knew what was going on, and I didn't. When my kids asked where I was, the church leaders' kids told my kids I was getting kicked out of the church. These were supposed to be my friends.
This whole episode is actually quite comical except for the fact that I have five young kids who are hurting on the inside because they will not be able to hang out with their friends anymore. What a mess for a testimony of Christian love. I later found out that one family had told their kids not to talk to mine -- but the kids did anyway when the parents weren't around.
So, with all that said, what do you think about my "submitting" to the pastor? By the way, obviously, I'm not going back. I don't think it's healthy for my kids to be under that kind of leadership. Yet part of me wants to go back and apologize to the people if they thought I was trying to cause a problem. That was truly not my intent.
Thanks for your input, Greg. I always enjoy your answers and respect your interpretation.
A. I guess I should not be shocked when I hear reports such as yours. After all, I know it's happening, so how can I be surprised? You ask for my input. Here goes. Your relationship with God is being damaged. God is being misrepresented to you. From what you have said about this situation, I can see nothing for which you should apologize.
If more people boycotted such Christ-less hell holes that call themselves a church then perhaps legalistic religion would realize the pathetic product of its dogma and control.
Leave. Don't go back. Nothing at all, in terms of a relationship with a brick and mortar church (church attendance, activities, outings, camping trips, church "friendships" -- etc.) is better than what you describe. Stay at home if need be -- if more people boycotted such Christ-less hell holes that call themselves a church then perhaps legalistic religion would realize the pathetic product of its dogma and control.
I know about this kind of authoritarianism and the lasting impact it usually has on our relationship with God. I experienced a similar kind of manipulation and brow-beating, guilt trips, and transfers of blame -- for many years. I and many others who existed in that particular religious swamp were told, when we didn't agree with religious authorities, that we were in "bad attitudes" -- and when we expressed disagreement we were told that we weren't being "loyal" (to a human being!). When and if we failed to conform to legalistic practice one of the ultimate clubs was to be told that our "conversion" was questionable.
And of course, when all else failed, there was blazing hot hell fire that awaited us, because we couldn't be obedient to God (that is, God as perverted and corrupted by religion). I lived through such religious oppression, thinking that I was the problem. I experienced such mind games at the hands of authorities who, to the best of my knowledge, were sincere. They were of course way off base -- way wrong -- but sincere. Deceived and messed up, and doing their best to mess up everyone to whom they "ministered" and "served." Your pastor may also be completely sincere -- but he is sincerely wrong.
Sad to say, I became a religious authority in the same religious context, and inflicted the same rules, regimens and regulations -- the same atmosphere of fear and shame, of intimidation and bullying. Thinking it was what God wanted, I dished up the same kind of religious propaganda and lies on others. Many of my friends who knew me back then, and who continue to exist within a similar religious world view, believe that I am overstating the reality of what I and many others experienced back then. I believe that they, for a variety of reasons, are unable to deal with the truth of what happened to them and what they themselves participated in -- and thus they live in some degree of denial. I thank God for his gracious deliverance from religion -- for myself, for many people I know, and for many people I serve. I thank God that it seems that you too understand something seems to be horribly wrong in this church you have been attending.
Once again, the sincerity of your pastor and your friends is not the issue. Most of them, perhaps all of them, are doing what they believe to be "right." But by God's grace you seem to know it's not right at all. You mention that some of your friends "worship" the pastor -- when that dynamic is present it can give that human leader carte blanche, and eventually a person given that kind of reverence, whether politically, religiously, on the job or in the family, will become somewhat convinced that they are above and beyond the run of the mill people they ostensibly "serve." Worship of a pastor, however worship may be defined, is a huge danger sign.
Don't put up with this kind of treatment. Many who realize something is very wrong continue to allow such un-Christ-like behavior, in the context of a church, somewhat like a battered spouse will make excuses for his/her spouse who is physically and emotionally abusing them. The abused person will think they can change the abusive party. The abused person will talk about the "good times" when the abuse is not happening. The abused person will make excuses for the perpetrator, justifying him or her.
Women in particular find themselves in a difficult place when adult male spiritual leaders play the submission card. It's often the trump card, used to bring the "rebellious" woman back into line. And, ganging up on a woman when her husband is not present?!?! Religion is all about control.
My question is simple: I challenge religious legalism to please demonstrate and explain how Jesus is all about control. He is the polar opposite! This doesn't mean Jesus is a wimp -- it does mean Jesus gives us choices. He does not chain us to the church pews to make sure we attend every week! May God give you the wisdom and courage to take the steps you need. May his grace and peace be with you. My prayers are with you.