Friday, June 15, 2007

Religion and the Abused Child

This is a tough one for me. Long before I could start to hate my mother and realize that what she was doing to my brother and me were wrong, I had to realize God wasn’t who I was brought up believing he was. I had to realize religion was wrong first.

See, we always went to church. When it was the whole nuclear family of ‘mother, father, son, daughter’ we went to a Catholic Church. Sunday school, Christmas parties, the whole thing. We learned the “suffer the little children” line and John 3:16, “For God so loved his son that he gave his only begotten son so that whosoever beleiveth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life in heaven.”

When our family’s cracks began to deepen, and the unit became mother, son, daughter (notice, I still put myself last, I hate that but it’s there.) we went to the Salvation Army. I was a sunbeam, in the children’s band. Later I was in the choir and Girl Guards and going to nursing homes and was a junior soldier and promised to not harm animals or have strong drink and on and on.

My mother was a Sunday school teacher. She drove shut-ins to church. She was in the Home League and all the other stuff. And all that time she was erratic at home; she was throwing hammers at televisions, throwing plates against the walls, at us children. She was threatening to kill herself, to have me raped if I misbehaved (this was a favorite of hers, “you want me to send you to your father so he can rape you?” she’d yell.) I have scars, physical as well as emotional, from her. And I began to hate myself for not being able to see the good in her that God obviously did.

The Bible is a strong weapon, and my mother was smart. That’s the danger of people, intelligence and mental illness. It means doom for the world. She would throw the Ten Commandments at as, to “honor they father and mother, and make them holy.” And I disobeyed God in not wanting to do whatever inane wish she had in her mind. Then there was some line about returning things ten-fold. So that meant if I yelled at her, or disagreed, she or my brother (she seemed to enjoy watching him hit me) would hit me or spank me ten times.

So I was going through the Bible together and found her favorite quote:

Proverbs 13:24 – “Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them.”

I hate that so much, the power it had. There are others of course:

“Do not fear what you are about to suffer: - Revelations 2:9

“I will come like a thief and you will not know at what hour I will come to you” – Revelations 3:2 (This justified those times she’d drag my brother and/or I out of a sound sleep and bang our heads together, throw us under a cold shower, cut out chunks of our hair, spank us, whatever.)

“Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Rev. 22:15 (This was why we couldn’t talk to anyone outside of the family about what was going on inside, because they were evil and just wanted to rape us and my mom was our savior.)

See, there was Jesus, the symbol, pure innocence. The picture of Jesus with the children surrounding him was somewhere in the house. He was the goal, you have to suffer to learn, and through that suffering comes redemption. God is good, and if you are in pain it’s because you deserve it, because you did something wrong.

That guilt complex was built into us from an early age. Everything was our fault. If mother was unhappy it was our fault. Did we not understand how much she gave up for her children? That she sacrificed her marriage, her last chance at happiness, to keep us safe? Did we not see that just as Jesus gave up his life on the cross she had given up her life of adulthood and sex to care for us?

Suffer the little children.

So as I aged and was able somehow to free myself from this brainwashing, how could I hate her without hating the God that created her? How could I not be mad at a God that let this happen? When she aligned herself with religion to such a degree that Mother and Jesus were synonymous, how is a child supposed to cope?

I tried, for many years after I left I tried to return to the church, and can’t. I went to a few Salvation Army’s but am still pissed that they couldn’t see her evil, didn’t question our bruises or tear-stained cheeks.

I tried other churches, but haven’t felt God.

However, I still feel him in my heart. I still talk to him, even if it’s arguments at this point. How can I be happy in a creator like that? How can I say that suffering is justified? That we need it to learn, to grow closer to God.

I feel like a failed Job experiment. He had no problems watching Job lose everything and still cry to him, my mother did the same. She admitted that she enjoyed watching us cry and then ask her to kiss the very ‘boo-boo’s she had created. “Dogs are smarter,” she’d say, “you guys keep coming back.”

It’s all so painful to try and figure out.


heavenabove said...

I think relgion is not a problem in itself, I think it's peoples' interpretations of religion that is the problem-it can be manipulated into something so twisted and perverse. I am so sorry you had to go through all of this in your life. Good for you to be able to write all this down. It can only help to get it out.
I also had a rough childhood but not as bad as yours.I believe I am becoming depressed as the years go on. I already went through the angry phase as a teen and young adult. Now,I think about all that stuff and wonder why and I keep it all inside. God gets me through things. Yes, I believe in Jesus although I didn't always. Inside I am a deeply religious person but I do not attend any church. God will not be found in churches where the people are not true. God is everywhere all the time, even the worst of times. My "church" is in my heart and mind. That way others cannot taint what I know about God. Your mother sounds like she must have endured some kind of trauma herself somewhere along the line (not to make an excuse for her certainly. She is unfit to be a parent, to put it lightly.She is just not right.) I hate the way you mother perverted God's words for her own selfish purposes. It's very disturbing. I hope things get better for you. Remember that you did nothing wrong.

About my blog said...

There will be a root cause for every behavior. IF we try to look for that, may be it will help in changing their attitude!
When a person lived through hard times, it will be easy for him to live in any kind of surroundings in later life.
Always being positive and having a goal, trying to reach it is the best way to avoid our inner hurt. Try to Ignore the bad and just take the good.

Victorya said...

Oh, I don't really hate God or religion. In fact, I fell in love with religion and studied a lot of different faiths - from Krishna and Hindusim to Shintoism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, etc. It's a marvelous thing that has completely shaped our world.

It's just also powerful and in the wrong hands, dangerous.

Rachelle said...

Oh my dear little girl. I know that the ultimate abandonment to an abused child is God's abandonment.

I've been there, wondering where God was while I was being hurt.
This post breaks my heart. Religion in the wrong hands is surely a tool for guilt, feelings of worthlesness, and a twisting of the word 'discipline'.

I want to bear you my testimony that you are a beloved daughter of your Father in Heaven who loves you very, very much- and knows you very well. I am blessed to have come by that knowledge personally, after many, many years.

On this journey we survivors have to take, we need to find many things along the way. Most of them come in the natural course of healing time- self respect, self worth, a feeling that we do indeed belong in the order of the world and exist without (despite?) our parents efforts to squelch our spirits. Other things are harder to find- God is one of them.

Wasn't I surprised to find that He had been waiting for me all this time with his arms wide open?!
Here's to your journey- clink!

Sheepdog said...

"How can I say that suffering is justified?"

I don't know that suffering IS justified. I do know that what was done to you is NOT justified, unjust, and that those who hurt you will be held accountable.

I liked Rachelle's comments to you here.

Abuse of a child hurts on a profound level; It hurts even more when it's one's own mother. Mothers are supposed to love us, aren't they? Don't all mothers love their children? Is there something wrong with me? The answer is no. It isn't always that way.

Everyone thought my mother was so wonderful, and had no idea what went on behind closed doors. Then when I finally mustered the courage to tell, no one believed me and I suffered even more.

Add to that the spiritual abuse - well that's an incredible to-the-core-of-the-soul kind of hurt.

It is amazing that you talk to God at all, that something deep inside you still knows to talk to Him. It's okay, you know, to be angry. It's okay to ask questions. I really believe that He wants to have a REAL relationship with us, and not something where we're all nicey-pie 'cause that's what it's supposed to be (by somebody else's standards, not God's).

Hang in there. You are amazing. I subscribe to this blog and, though I don't comment, I have loads of respect for you. You are PRECIOUS.

What happened to you was wrong and not your fault. And it does not define who you are. (You probably know that; It took me years to figure that out)

And you know what else? Those people do not define God! Oh, they tried to, they say they know, but that is a big fat self-serving LIE!

I have to admit, I am feeling angry right now - not at you - but at what was done to you. Abuse in the name of "god" is too common. I can only imagine what God thinks of that!

Oh, and one more thing and I'll shut up :) Your relationship with God if between you and Him. YOU and GOD define that - nobody else. And no one has the right or authority to tell you what that should be. It's your relationship.

Okay.. Am I telling you a bunch of stuff you already know? I guess I just want you to know that, even though I've never met you, I care what happens to you.

I will pray for you, if that's okay with you.