The people and stories I encounter in my ministry are not always easy ones to hear. They are weighty with pain and hurt. In these stories, there is almost always a point at which the person reached out to a religious leader asking for help and guidance.
A woman whose husband was physically abusing her was told that she needed to stick with the marriage because “God hates divorce.”
A woman who was being consistently being sexually harassed at church was told, “he is a good man and a servant of God. Your job is to submit to your husband.”
A woman was struggling with depression and wanted a recommendation for a therapist or a psychiatrist was told, “God is strong enough. You just need to pray more.”
Again and again, people reach out for help only to be told, there is no help. The dogmatic teaching doesn’t allow for divorce, victims speaking up, or needing help outside of the religious community. And instead of offering wholeness and freedom, the community of faith offers more hurt, more pain, and more isolation.
If you know that you know that you that you know that you are spending eternity in heaven then what you experience here on earth doesn’t matter all that much. If you have the peace that surpasses all understanding then you can overcome anything that you encounter.
This is spiritual abuse.
When we cling so tightly to doctrine over the people who are sitting before us bearing their souls, we are missing the gospel message. The gospel is not about continued and consistent hurt and brokenness. The gospel is about freedom and wholeness. This is why the Divine came to earth to offer new life.
When we focus so heavily on eschatological destinations, we miss out on living and being here on earth. We miss being in community with others who breathe the same Divine breath that we do. We miss out on seeing the miraculous transformative power of the Divine here among us working, changing, and offering hope to people desperately asking for help, asking to be seen, asking to be heard.
May our eyes be opened to see those who surround us and hear their needs, rather than explaining those needs away with an easy dogmatic answer.