Last week, the world learned that one of the most notorious “churches” in all of America lost two of its most out-spoken and prominent members: the founder’s granddaughters. (read more about it here)
If there’s one thing that non-Christians and most Christians agree on, it’s that Westboro Baptist Church is a hateful organization that spews venom, not love. It is spiritually abusive, not spiritually awakening. A group of people that are best known for picketing funerals and holding up signs that read “God Hates Fags” instead of the love of Christ, Westboro strikes both fear and hatred in the hearts of millions throughout the country.
Here’s the thing. And this is a fact that I still have a hard time swallowing sometimes. Those who are spiritually abusive are often victims of spiritual abuse themselves. That’s how abuse often happens, it’s a vicious cycle. So while it could be easy to say “I told you so” or to make some kind of snide comment about the two women who were involved in hurting so many people, but the truth is, they were just as abused.
They were taught to hate. They were taught that if they left their church, they would go to hell. Now that they’ve left, their family has abandoned them and says they are going to hell. They were taught–no, deeply ingrained with the idea–that their ways were not only right, but that they were Biblical.
Now that they have come to the understanding that what they’ve known their whole lives is false, that doesn’t mean the journey is over. It’s far from over. When people who are in a spiritually abusive situation first start realizing something isn’t right, they first have to come to terms with that and truly admit it to themselves. Then there’s the leaving. I know many stories of people who have stayed in an abusive church because they didn’t know where else to go or they were scared to leave because it meant rejection, it meant saying goodbye to everything they know.
Once someone leaves an abusive church (or any form of abuse), they must then start the healing process. This involves forgiving the former church and even forgiving themselves for drinking the proverbial Kool-aid for so long. It involves truly understanding what parts of their theology were wrong, then figuring out what is right.
Through this whole process, it’s not uncommon to need a break from the whole “God thing.” Kind of like a cleanse. You have to get rid of the toxins before you can appreciate the goodness.
I have no idea what these sisters are feeling right now but my hope, my prayer for them is that they continue on their path of healing and that they experience the true grace of God. I hope and pray that fellow Christians will embrace their sisters and forgive them for giving Christians a bad name for so many years.
Please join me in praying for these two women as they search out the true God, the God of love. As they face rejection from their family and what will sure to be doubts about their place in heaven because they’ve turned against their church.
Pray that they discover joy in Christ.